How to Write a Review Online

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{Header image by Left rj and used under a Public Domain license, via Wikimedia Commons.}

Note: this article will be published in the September 2010 issue of KC Stage Magazine (link no longer active).

Everyone’s a critic — especially in the world of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and other forms of social networking. KC Stage’s review system has always been about peer review, which has flourished under social networking systems. But with everyone being a critic, how can you make sure your voice is heard? Here are some tips for writing a review for KC Stage’s online system that will get noticed.

  1. Keep it simple. The reviews are posted online and via e-mail, and writing for the web is different than writing for print. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean short, but your paragraphs should typically be no more than three or four sentences each and the overall review probably shouldn’t be more than five or six paragraphs.
  1. Keep it clear. The review should flow easily from paragraph to paragraph and be easily understood. Read it aloud before posting — do you stumble over anything? Think about rewriting that part for more clarity. Make it more like how you would talk to your friends and why you would convince them to attend or not attend this particular show.
  1. Be specific. For your opinion to make a difference, it has to be more than you liked or disliked the show. Tell us why. Was it the acting? The script choice itself? The sets or costumes? While you don’t have to mention every single actor (or every technical area) — and you probably shouldn’t (see suggestion #1), if you really enjoyed the acting, give an example of an actor that really shone, and why they were particularly good at that role.
  1. Know when to break the rules. It’s okay to throw in the occasional 10-cent word, if that’s the right word for that particular situation. There are times when you can be so moved by a piece you are left speechless — you just know it was really good (or the alternate — really bad), and so giving specifics as to why you reacted this way is out of anyone’s vocabulary, let alone yours. Sometimes there’s just so much to go into that to keep it short wouldn’t do the show justice. But as with any vice, everything in moderation.

Since everyone’s a critic, you should be, too — but as with any writing, you want readers to understand where you’re coming from.