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Is there a perfect formula for a review?

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Showing 1-25 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jun 2010 09:33:26 BDT
Danny says:
I often see reviews criticised for being too short or too long. But is there a perfect length, and if so why? Some items don't require an in-depth review. You just want to know if they work or not. Batteries are a prime example. Other products, such as books, need a breakdown of the content itself. But are there golden rules that all good reviews adhere to, by their very nature? Some are fairly obvious.

1. The review must tell people about the product it is describing.
2. The review must not advertise anything else.

But what about other factors? Does length matter? Is humour appropriate?

What do people think?
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In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2010 09:37:31 BDT
Ethereal says:
I gathered info from forum users before writing mine (of a book), and one thing I found was if there's a synopsis and other reviews giving the story outline there's no point repeating it. Short is preferred so long as it says something useful. I tried to say something the other reviews didn't.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 09:42:26 BDT
Danny says:
I'm torn on that point myself. On the one hand, the argument that there is no point repeating the story outline makes perfect sense. However, on the other hand, it forces readers to read other reviews as well. If a product has lots of reviews, and you post a new review, it will most likely get read by somebody looking for reviews in date order. Consequently they will be reading your review before any of the other ones. If they then have to go through other reviews to find out what they want, they may not find your review so helpful.

So perhaps it would be better to mention the unique bits first, and then give a full blown review?

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2010 09:45:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jun 2010 09:45:57 BDT
Ethereal says:
It my case it was made easy because there was a synopsis, so whether the reviews have an outline too didn't matter. I did notice some reviews were very long and went into a lot of detail about the story, which I think is probably unnecessary - though these reviews did get a lot of helpful votes. So who knows.
I think the main thing is to say something new.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 10:04:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jun 2010 10:05:29 BDT
Ethereal says:
About your humour question, in my opinion people don't read Amazon reviews to be blown away by the reviewer's patter. They want quick info to help them make a decision. So I'd say humour is probably not a good thing in a review, unless you're writing an article in a newspaper column when the readers want to be entertained as well.
I feel a bit lonely here at the moment!

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 10:54:00 BDT
JJG says:
I'd say humour isn't the main thing, but in addition to a good concise review I think it's a nice bonus.

Amazon give a guide of how long a review should be, I can't remember what it is, something like 50-300 words? I try to follow that, but inevitably I write more and have to edit down.

As for overall golden rules to reviewing, honestly, I don't think there are any. I just write reviews like ones I'd like to come across, that seems to be a fairly decent guideline to follow.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2010 11:07:38 BDT
Ethereal says:
What about irony or sarcasm then, especially if the item isn't rated highly? Surely then it becomes more about the reviewer's ego than the product.
No one can be truly objective but I think the reviewer should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sorry if I'm stepping on toes, I haven't read your reviews JJG or MT for that matter because we don't appear to have the same tastes in stuff.
It is an interesting question, humour in reviews.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 11:22:40 BDT
Damaskcat says:
I find that some of my critical reviews have the most humour in them! But mainly I wouldn't seek to make my reviews humorous.

When reviewing fiction I usually give a brief synopsis without giving too much away and then highlight the aspects of it - plot, character, dialogue etc which is really liked or disliked.

With non fiction I think it's generally accepted that you can say more about the contents than with fiction. I would always comment on whether there were notes on the text, bibliographies or indexes.

I try and keep my reviews under 500 words though non-fiction tend to work out longer than fiction and some do go over the 500 mark.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 12:07:47 BDT
Danny says:
Sarcasm especially can easily backfire if not done correctly. Nobody likes a smartass.

What is unforgivable is reviewing a funny film or book and including the best jokes in your review.

I find fiction books quite difficult to review, as I hate reviews that give away the plot, but without giving away some of the plot you end up with a very short review.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2010 15:56:46 BDT
JJG says:
To be honest, the only time I think I've used humour in a review, was when I was tearing something apart. I set my case out for why I didn't like this particular item, but just made it a little bit more interesting through humour. I think it probably 'worked', it's one of my most positive voted reviews.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 18:52:23 BDT
Danny says:
Perhaps instead of working out what makes a good review, we could work out what makes a bad review?

Personally I dislike:

Reviews from people who haven't used the product for whatever reason, but especially because its not even out yet.
Reviews that read like a technical manual. I like reviews that contain technical information, but when it just contains technical information (ie they've copied the info page in the instructions) and nothing else, then its not useful, as I don't learn how the reviewer actually found the product.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 20:02:37 BDT
Ethereal says:
My pet dislike is rehashing the synopsis, especially when it goes into reams of detail. I have to plough through it all to find the useful information (if any) and it does take away some of the pleasure of reading the story for myself even if there are no spoilers as such.
But that's just the opposite of what I said I like to see in a review.

Posted on 8 Jun 2010 20:57:54 BDT
With CDs, I'm not keen on reading a biography of the recording artist - it's just padding.

I like a bit of individuality, humour too.

Posted on 9 Jun 2010 00:13:09 BDT
hbw says:
"Less is more" is probably the golden rule. I certainly skip long reviews. My approach is to write the review that I want to write then check others before posting it. This avoids repetition and may allow you to cut your review (you could say "other reviews have mentioned x") or pick up on points that you disagree with ("some reviewers have said x, but I think y...").

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2010 00:30:37 BDT
Reviews are simple.Describe the product.Relevant information is as follows:The product,tracks/film,brief synopsis of artist,director,producer.Most important thing of all,do not slate the product!The appropriate phrase is as follows,`although this album/film was`nt my thing,if you ejoyed x,y or z you will love this,otherwise tread carefully`.Alternatively do`nt review it.I enjoy the reviewers in The Independant,both film and music.Vinyljunkie.

Posted on 9 Jun 2010 08:02:20 BDT
Danny says:
Why shouldn't you criticise something if you didn't like it? Surely thats the whole point of the review.

Now, if you like jazz music, then I agree a scathing review of a heavy metal album would be entirely pointless. But if you really like a particular author, and they produce a stinker, why shouldn't you criticise it?

Posted on 9 Jun 2010 08:14:26 BDT
Damaskcat says:
I dislike the reviews which are just one or two semtences saying that the reviewer liked/disliked the book or product without giving any reasons for their views. That doesn't help me at all.

Posted on 9 Jun 2010 10:44:14 BDT
No formula. What's useful depends hugely on the product, competitive products, and reviews that are already there. If you can't say something that hasn't been said already, a review is pointless. My most successful recview in terms of votes is FAR longer than Amazon say it should be, but it's about a digital camera - a complex and expensive bit of kit that I'd spent a fair amount of time researching before buying it, so I reviewed it remembering the things that I'd been concerned about and said how they turned out. In other reviews, where I own possible alternative choices, I've seen no harm in stating that other books are better, as long as I say why.

Posted on 11 Jun 2010 13:58:40 BDT
Danny says:
I like reviews that indicate a decent amount of research has gone into them. They save me a lot of time, especially if they mention the other ones that they considered. This is not so that I can immediately discount them. It is so I can check them out myself and draw my own conclusions.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2010 21:05:15 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 16 Aug 2010 17:19:22 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2010 21:40:48 BDT
I. Cowie says:
well dont make it too long or else people will get bored, but give a detailed description of the product. make some jokes when appropriate but don't force humor!

Posted on 12 Jun 2010 08:27:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jun 2010 08:27:48 BDT
Damaskcat says:
Mr p - I am not American - can you please get that through your thick skull before I get extremely annoyed

Posted on 12 Jun 2010 09:48:24 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 16 Aug 2010 17:19:22 BDT]

Posted on 12 Jun 2010 10:04:09 BDT
Damaskcat says:
I am not American

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2010 15:48:58 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jun 2010 15:55:08 BDT
NeuroSplicer says:
Will you two give it a break.? No, the irony is not lost on me but I do hope it is not lost on you either ;-)

We are all Amazon customers, who cares who is British and who is not? This is NOT even a British site! is a ...Luxembourg company run out of Ireland.
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Participants:  13
Total posts:  30
Initial post:  8 Jun 2010
Latest post:  13 Jun 2010

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