How to write a review that helps readers make decisions

If you like to write reviews on your blog, how can you structure them so your readers follow along with you? How can you make them see why you feel the way you do?

This is Part 3 in a series about different blog post structures. In Part I, I talked about different ways to structure informative blog posts. In Part 2, I discussed how to structure persuasive blog posts.

In this post, we’ll focus specifically on writing a review. Reviews are really popular on the Internet. They’re found on news sites and blogs.

Reviewing products and works – either your own or someone else’s – on your blog gives you the chance to express how you feel about it. Reviews are written on all kinds of products and works, such as technology, books, movies, music and theater performances. Reviews also cover restaurants, museums and exhibits.

Writing reviews on your blog can be a great way to not only promote products you like, but also to tell why you don’t like a product. Reviews can also expose your readers to products or works they may not know about otherwise.

When you’re writing a review, you can’t assume that your readers have seen, read or heard the same work or product that you have. You also want to be fair in your critique of the product. You want to be able to tell your reader whether they should buy the product, or go see the movie or play, or go eat at the restaurant.

Review Structure

A five-part structure will help you write a review that is fair to the product and its creator, and also tells your reader if they should buy the product and why.

Five-Part Review Structure

A five-part structure will help you write good reviews that accomplish all of these goals.

Step 1: Appraise the product or work in your introductory paragraphs. Is it a good book or product? Is the movie entertaining or boring? Does the tech gadget function well, or is it hard to use? Explain why you’re giving this appraisal.

Step 2: In the next few paragraphs, give a synopsis or summary of the product or work. Also give the intent of the artist or creator. This is where you explain enough about the product for readers who don’t know about it. And you describe what the creator meant to accomplish.

Step 3: Next, give evidence supporting your appraisal of the work. If you’re reviewing a book, was it well written, did the text and chapters flow well, and did it hit its target audience? For a movie, what specific scenes, dialogue or plot points worked or didn’t? For a tech gadget, what specific functions work and don’t work? And is the body of the gadget designed well?

Step 4: Now that you’ve given evidence, restate whether or not the artist or creator accomplished his or her intent. The evidence backs up why you think the work or product did or didn’t meet your expectations.

Step 5: End your review by giving your readers a suggestion as to whether or not they would benefit from buying the product or seeing the work. Should they buy and read the book? Should they eat at that restaurant, or avoid it? Should they spend 2 or more hours watching that movie? Or lay down several hundred dollars on that particular gadget?

By following this structure, you will be able to give a thorough and thoughtful review. This is especially true if you don’t like what it is you’re reviewing. Someone still worked hard to create it, and you want to be fair to the creator.

This structure also lets you be fair to your readers, who deserve to know why you feel the way you do about a product or work, and whether they should spend their time or money on it.

I’ve mentioned in this series before that it’s your job as a blog writer to lead your reader through your thought process. Readers won’t follow a blog post if you don’t show them the connections between your ideas. By following the appropriate structure for the type of blog post you’re writing, whether it’s informative, persuasive or a review, you’ll be able to make sure your post is well organized and logical. Then you’ll be able to keep your readers interested in your posts, all the way to the end.

Readers, do you write reviews on your blog? Have you thought about how you structure them? What helps you keep your reader following your thought process? Let us know in the comments!


How to write a review that helps readers make decisions — 14 Comments

  1. Hi Jennifer. I found you via BHB on LI, and have to say that of all the posts I read today and commented on, yours hit home the most, as I DO write reviews on Wording Well.

    While I don’t consider myself a professional book reviewer, I have been trying to improve the structure of my reviews. To date, I have only posted one negative one, and in the process, I think I ticked off JeriWB, because the book I reviewed was one of her friends’ books! She’s not visited my site since!

    I won’t delete that post, though. I will say that I learned from it.

    I also am now trying to be more careful and tactful. However, I think honesty is important, especially in reviews.

    I guess that is why authors/writers are constantly told to develop “thick skins,” right?

  2. While I haven’t done a review on my blog, I used to write book reviews while in graduate school. I would generally start with a brief synopsis followed by an assessment of the author’s thesis. Then I would try to give evidence of ways the author helped or failed to prove that thesis. At the end, I’d determine whether or not the book was a worthwhile read and if good enough, would recommend it to future readers. So my method was a bit similar to yours but differed in some ways.

    I was very happy to read this because it brought up some memories of my times in the scholarly mix during grad school. There are things I certainly miss and some not so much. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. I have to say I haven’t written a review yet. It is hard enough for me to find time to write a blog post. However you made it sound easy enough so I might consider it since you were kind enough to write a good guide

  4. Jennifer- Thank you so much for sharing your article. I have often been asked to review products but not accepted any offers as I always worry about how much you need to include in your review. Often the company will provide the information with the product – and again I am not sure if we can just copy and paste the information the company sends you.

  5. Hi Jennifer, every once in a while I will review a certain householdproduct on my blog, usually something I’m thinking of buying or following up on a complaint by someone else. I like your five steps and have bookmarked this page so the next time I review something I can refer back to this. Thanks.

  6. Hi Jennifer,
    I have not written a review as of yet, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness in laying out a very easy to follow mini-guide to write one.

  7. Great tips. The steps are similar to the CEI format I used to teach students. Claim, evidence, interpretation. I love to write reviews, but can no longer fit them into my regular blog posts.

  8. This is a great outline regarding how to go about writing a review. I have never written a book review, it doesn’t fit with my blog concept or direction. I will review kitchen product from time to time that are part of a recipe where I’ve used that product. It may not be a book review, but parts of what you’ve said could apply. :-)

  9. I have never written a review of something I don’t like as i always feel there are plenty of folks out there that do only that. I hope my good reviews have always incorporated your points but to make sure I will save this guide for future reviews. Thanks.

  10. Hi Jennifer, I have never written or published a review of a book or product. My instinct would be to combine 4 and 5 but since I seldom read reviews it is instinct and nothing more

  11. I like this article. As writers, we are so concerned about writing stories; we do not understand the art of writing a review of that story.

  12. Wonderful outline for a review. Book reviews are popular, yet so many of them a) re-hash the plot or b) are simplified to the point of “I really liked this book” which actually says nothing at all. Wish you could send this post to about a thousand book reviewers! Laugh!

  13. Nice outline for writing a review. I think it’s always a good idea to be a giver and generously review products or services. I need to do this. Haven’t done a formal review yet, but I have shared my opinion about the shortcuts I use in my business every day, which was met with lots of positive comments. Good tips and thanks for sharing them.