Tips on writing reviews

Family, friends and even co-workers have shown their support by purchasing my book, The Night of the Moon Serpent since it went on sale. I have had positive feedback from them, but they usually have been shy about writing and posting reviews online. “I’ll do it but I need to read it again,” my sister tells me. “I promise I write one as soon as I have some time,” a friend assures me. “Oh, I liked your book, that Rojas (the bad guy) was really scary,” my co-worker says. “Please,” I begged. “Just put that in writing and post it.”

Writing a review should be easy. Right? For me, yeah–sort of. I started writing book and product reviews as a way to practice my writing, but I can’t claim that I have it perfected yet. But for some people, the act of putting their likes and dislikes about something in writing can be intimidating. Sure, nobody is going to censure you for writing I hate it! or Piece of junk! and leaving it at that. But writing a helpful review requires some thinking (BTW, here’s a great post on the misleading perception that writing is easy), especially if you’re concerned about coming across as articulate and credible. Here are some tips I learned on writing reviews:

1. Be honest. This should be obvious because that’s what a review is for (or hoped it is for). As a customer, I want to know why a product worked or didn’t work and what other buyers thought about it. However,

2. Be professional. We all have experienced disappointment with a product or book; however, in my opinion, there’s no need to call names, cuss or launch into a tirade of expletives. Verbally abusing the author or the maker of a product may drive your point across but you’ll also come across as rude, ignorant and/or a troll.

3. Be informative. I appreciate when a reviewer tells me something that it is not included in the product description like additional features or missing ones.

4. Go to the point. I like details but if the review is long-winded, it usually turns me off. Time and attention spans are precious. Also, avoid spoilers if you’re reviewing a book or a movie.

5. Honor your own voice. Not all reviews can be as hilarious as George Takei’s (I’m aware that his reviews are considered spoofs instead of the real thing) or as thorough as one coming from a professional top reviewer, but they all each has its own style. And readers come in many flavors too. Some will appreciate reviews as short as a haiku poem while others may go for serious or funny, or the guy-or-girl-next-door writing style. Being honest, professional, informative and to the point will make your review helpful. Letting your voice shine through the writing will make it a pleasure to read.

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