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Forums: TV.com User Submission Support: Submission Tip Column #16 - Writing reviews

 
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    [1]Feb 29, 2008
    • member since: 07/31/05
    • level: 29
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    by guest columnist Agent_0042

    If you're reading this article, then you're likely interested in doing reviews here on TV.com and want to know more. There are three types of reviews you can do at TV.com -- show, episode and person reviews. It is not currently possible to review a character, though some have expressed a desire for this feature to be available in the future.

    When posting a review, you could be dealing with one of two audiences. The first is those that are already familiar with the person, show, or episode in question. This is really more true for people or episodes, as those interested in a show review more likely than not haven't seen the show. If it's one they are familiar with, then it's quite possible they have their opinion already, but are looking to read other thoughts. You can satisfy them by offering your take. If it's somebody who's not familiar, or only vaguely aware of what you're reviewing, then your review could help them to make a decision.

    - If you're reviewing an episode, let us know what you thought was unique or special about it. We want to know how it touched you emotionally, unless you're a Vulcan or a Jedi, in which case, please free to review it from a purely logical point of view. Try to cover all aspects of the episode. How were the characters developed? Were there any major plot twists? What were the key events of the episode? And how did you feel about the things that went on? Were you pleased with the things that developed? Or perhaps instead, you thought something took a major wrong turn and now you're not at all happy with the direction things are headed.

    - When styling your episode review, there are really two ways you can go. You can give an outline of the aspects of the episode and your thoughts on it. Alternatively, some reviewers (such as me), sometimes like to do a mini-recap. This can include your commentary (as witty or dry as you'd like to make it) with a summary of events throughout.

    - Show reviews are best when you discuss all the major aspects of the show. Show reviews complaining about one particular aspect of the show (or worse, one particular episode) are likely to be ignored. Give an overall outline of the show -- what you like or dislike about the characters, the plotting, the overall look and feel of the show, the music, and anything else you can think of.

    - I've never posted any person reviews myself, but the same general guidelines apply. Readers want to know what you think about who you're reviewing as a person, your thoughts as to their TV and movie roles, any special connection you may have with them, etc. Gushing fan reviews are best avoided, if you're writing a glowing review, it doesn't hurt to throw in a couple of less-than-positive things about the person you're reviewing, as it's unlikely they're a saint.

    - Think carefully before posting a review that assigns a rating of lower than about 3 or so. Is what you're reviewing really that awful that there's so little to redeem it? The lowest score I've ever posted for a review is somewhere around 3. Even the most awful show or episode almost surely has something to like about it. Maybe it has really good music, if nothing else, or it's edited well. The point is, if you select a really low score, then you risk alienating your readers. Even for those that really merit, negative reviews tend to garner more "disagree" votes than positive ones.

    - When writing a review for an episode, you have to make the choice as to whether you will or won't include spoilers. If you are including spoilers, you pretty much have free reign to talk about whatever you want that happened, though you should warn people first. TV.com does not yet have a mechanism to specifically mark a review as containing spoiler content, nor does the Review section support the spoiler tag, so just mark the review at the beginning, or within the review if you're going to keep spoilers to a specific section. This latter option is really the best if you're hoping to serve both those who are familiar with what you're reviewing, and those that aren't.

    - Your review gains credibility with both the language you use and your ability to use proper spelling and grammar. In particular, if you have trouble with spelling, then I recommend using Firefox 2.0 or higher as your web browser. Its built-in spell-checker will catch almost all of your spelling errors, and you can use the custom dictionary for key character names and show-related phrases likely to pop up in your review that the checker wouldn't recognize. If you're having trouble with grammar, try a fully-featured word processor, such as Microsoft Word. Alternatively, if you think it worth the chance, you might consider asking another member of the site to proofread your reviews before posting them. However, I haven't heard myself of anyone doing this, and keep in mind that the time of many of the more active members of the site is limited.

    - Are you looking for specific examples of well-written reviews? If so, try any of the more popular shows here at TV.com. You'll likely find several examples of good reviews at any of these shows. You might also try other sites online that have well-established review features, such as Amazon and IMDb. If visiting Amazon, look for reviewers with many reviews and a large number of "Helpful" votes credited to their name, or anyone with "Top Reviewer" emblem. (Amazon, unlike TV.com, has specific emblems for its top reviewers, starting with the Top 1000 and going all the way to the top reviewer. As of this writing, there are over 2 million ranked reviewers at Amazon.com.)

    - In order to post a review, your system must have Adobe Flash (or an older version of Flash under the Macromedia Shockwave name) installed. This is needed because you must post a rating along with your review. Some users have expressed the desire to be able to post a review without casting a rating, as their systems do not support Flash, but this feature is not available at this time. If you need Adobe Flash, you can visit here for the latest player.

    - If you're writing a really long review, make sure to type it up somewhere other than TV.com and save it every so often. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you do not, your only hope really is if you have the latest version of Firefox, because Firefox will generally bring back up a page with the data you entered a form if you close it by mistake or it crashes. However, you cannot count on this.

    - Words and phrases to avoid in reviews: sucks, blows, crap(py), stupid, garbage, waste, atrocity, megabad, retarded, "I'd give it a 0.0 if I could," etc. These and others are likely to be considered hostile insulting comments (i.e., "flaming").

    - Don't review other users. Comments like "Anyone who watches this must be an idiot" are not acceptable. That would be considered "trolling."

    - The review section is for full and complete reviews. Moderators aren't going to be too particular on this, but if you say that you've only posted half a review, and that users can see the rest of the review somewhere else, they'll take your word for it.

    - The TOS concerning off-site link advertising applies to reviews.

    That's a lot of guidelines, but to keep things simple -- tell us how you feel, be constructive, keep it interesting, don't spoil major twists without warning people, and do you best to use proper spelling and grammar. If you do these things, then there's a good chance people will take an interest in your reviews.

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    Previous columns:

    Write Like You Talk
    Sourcing Your Material
    Know Your Capitals!
    A Matter of Timing
    Soundalikes and You
    Periods and Commas and Colons, Oh My!
    Apostrophes, Hyphens, and Quotation Marks, Oh My!
    Numbers and You
    New Season New Shows
    How to Write a Better Biography (1)
    Tips on Trivia (2)
    Star Quotes and Appearances
    How to Submit an Episode
    Episode Notes, Trivia, and Allusions
    Episode Quotes
    Edited on 05/07/2010 10:10pm
    Edited 5 total times.
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