When critics criticize, there is light and there is friction.A review should inform, excite and entertain. A critic’s judgment can serve to educate, amuse and delight — but should never come at the expense of the subject’s dignity. Reviews are a consumer service and news, and ought to be a pleasure to read. These are thoughts of several — they make sense.
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Here’s what you should include in a review
What is the most interesting or striking aspect of the topic? Is it the film’s special effects? Is it the fact that the album is No. 1 on the Billboard charts and yet sounds remarkably like geese passing wind on a muggy day? How about the craftsmanship of the work – stunning or reprehensible. Whatever you found fascinating, lead with that – the reader probably will find it the most interesting aspect as well.
Every review needs to present some sort of background on the piece being discussed. Include enough background to give the reader a good idea of the work’s theme and content but no more.
The names of the work’s principal creators or companies, information as to its format or length and where to obtain or view the work need to be provided in some format. This could be an info box or it could be spread throughout the article.
A major function of the review is providing helpful nuggets of consumer information to the audience. While readers do not necessarily want to be told whether to see a film or buy a record, they are interested in whether you liked it and why. This info will help them decide how best to spend their money and can clue them in to something they otherwise might have missed. Tell the reader what you thought, but be sure to back up your opinion.
Tie-back endings are a valuable commodity to the reviewer. Having a review work its way around in a circular fashion back to the idea with which you started gives the story a “finished” feeling and serves to drive home your position or lead thought. Don’t simply stop a review. When all your major points have been covered, put some kind of conclusion on the story.
What to leave out
Names of characters in films:
It is easy to overload the reader with too many unfamiliar names. Asking readers to remember names of all the major characters in a film is likely to cause them to put down your publication and watch TV, where life is simpler. Instead, use the name of the star. The audience is probably already familiar with it and it serves as a magnet to draw them farther into the story. Example: Use “Harrison Ford” or Ford’s character” instead of “John Book” when discussing Ford’s role in the film “Witness.”
Some background is needed, but the reader is more interested in whether the work was actually any good than in all the details of the plot. Overlong plot synopsis is the most common mistake in reviewing a film. Remember, don’t spoil the ending or the middle.
If you simply must quote lyrics from a song in a record review, try to select only the smallest fragment that will suffice. The reader cannot hear the words in the manner they occur on the recording, and long passages of lyrics waste space which could be used to more solidly support your opinion of the work.
In conclusion, hard and fast adherence to these guidelines is not necessary so long as you place yourself in the role of the reader. Try to include everything he or she reasonably needs to know and exclude things which add quantity but not substance to the story.
By Carl Lineberry — A former arts & entertainment editor of The Ranger at San Antonio College, Lineberry also was an editor at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Some other tips