Advanced Writing Part 2: How to Write a Riveting Review


Reading time: 8 minutes │


Reviews can actually be quite fun to write. But many students lose marks as they do not know how to excite and engage the marker. For that reason, I will teach you how. 



But firstly, what is a review? It is an article that describes and expresses opinions on things you can consume or purchase, such as books, television shows and mobile phones.


What other things are often reviewed in the exam?


To answer that, complete this task.


Which three things would not be reviewed?


  • A new West End play.

  • Museum or Gallery.

  • An AK47 Machine Gun.

  • A new Hindu temple in your neighbourhood.

  • Your favourite Italian restaurant.

  • The latest iPhone.

  • A car that you have previously owned or driven.

  • The last film you watched


So, let’s check out the answers.


  • An AK47 Machine Gun.

  • A new Hindu temple in your neighbourhood.

  • The latest iPhone.


Firstly, you would not be asked to review something as controversial and offensive as a machine gun. Neither would you be tasked with expressing your opinions on something political or religious, such as a place of worship. And lastly, it would be impossible to ask examinees to describe the latest iPhone as many of you may have no knowledge of it.


Who is the target reader of these reviews? In the CAE, these reviews are usually written for Newspapers, Websites and Magazines. As a result, the writing style needs to be semi-formal and semi-neutral. So, regarding formality, this would place the review between an essay and an informal letter. This is because the review’s purpose is not only to inform the reader on what book to read or restaurant to dine at but also to be entertaining.



Title Conventions


Unlike essays, reviews require a title. So, let’s go through how to construct them. Firstly, as brevity is one of the factors the markers look for, it should be a maximum of five words. Furthermore, the first letter of each word needs to be in uppercase or capitalised. On the other hand, articles and prepositions can be in lowercase. But they can also be omitted, along with linking words like ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘so’. This is because titles do not need to be grammatically accurate. Also, elude to how you feel about the film, restaurant or book so that the reader knows what to expect. Lastly, write in a way that hooks the reader…make them want to continue reading.


Now it’s over to you.


Which is the best review title for the book, Blood Meridian? And why?


  • Violence, Depravity…The American West

  • A Book about Violence, Depravity and the American West

And the answer is Violence, Depravity …The American West. It is more potent as it is more concise: the preposition ‘about’ is removed; the linking word ‘and’ has been omitted, and the article ‘A’ was taken out. Moreover, the term ‘book’ is unnecessary as readers will know that they are reading a book review.



Let’s try one more.


Which is the best review title for a new bike? And why?

  • It’s a nice bike

  • A Smooth Ride


A Smooth Ride is correct. This is because the first review uses lowercase letters as well as the contracted version of ‘it is’. And, ‘nice’ is not a very descriptive adjective…it is far too ambiguous. Therefore, my advice is never to use the describing words nice, good or interesting as they are overused.



Paragraph 1


The introduction ought to be informative. It should deliver factual information: the who, what, where, why and when of what is being reviewed.


Read the film review introduction. What essential factual information is missing? 


This adventure drama (2000), directed by Danny Boyle and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, explores the dark side of youthful wanderlust. It is a film that inspired a generation to search for adventure off the beaten path. 


And the omitted info is the title. And, as some of you slightly older readers may know, the film title is The Beach. You may think that forgetting to add the title of a book, tv show or play is impossible, but trust me, I have read many reviews which did just that.



Paragraph 2


This section functions to describe the restaurant, car or hotel. Or summarise the story of the film, book or play. Because of this, you will need to use descriptive language. This may seem relatively straightforward. But, many figures of speech, grammatical forms, and vocabulary can elevate your writing and make it stand out from the crowd.



Let’s check out the answers.

Similes are a descriptive method in which one thing is compared with another using ‘like’ or ‘as’. In this instance, the car’s engine roars LIKE a tiger.


Metaphors are similar; however, instead of using ‘as’ or ‘like’, the technique describes a thing or person as something else. In this case, the acrobats ARE putty, not Like putty.


Hyperbole! This is essentially an exaggeration. Obviously, the reviewer’s ears did not literally leave the show without him. But this over-the-top language creates a visual picture in the reader’s mind. And it is rather amusing.


Onomatopoeia. These words sound like what they mean, such as cats ‘meow’ or dogs go ‘woof’. These words have a very dramatic or poetic effect on the reader.


Emotive language: this is the use of language that is meant to make the reader feel something. Therefore, use verbs, nouns and adjectives to conjure joy, sadness, or in the case of this example, disgust.


And lastly, pathetic fallacy is a type of personification in which emotions are given to an object, setting or even the weather. For example, using the verb ‘dance’, which is usually reserved for people, is used in this sentence to describe lights.



Paragraph 3


Usually, this section is concerned with the evaluation, stating whether you liked or disliked a product or story. Therefore, let’s check out ways to enhance your evaluative language.



So. let’s look over the answers.


Opinion phrases, such as ‘personally speaking’, indicate that this is the writer’s viewpoint.


This is the same with personal pronouns like I. But do not use these too much as reviews are supposed to be relatively neutral.


Evidential words or phrases, which include since, because of, and due to, are used to demonstrate the reason for your evaluation.


Triplets, or as some people say, the rule of three, is when you give three short reasons for an assertion. To be honest, I am not really sure why three is better. To me, it just sounds complete. Two do not feel like enough, and four seem too many.


Emotive language is perfect for appraising. This is because it is persuasive by nature. For example, ‘his torturous tale had me crying’ does not have the same emotional impact as ‘had me in floods of tears.’ 


And finally, hyperbole is also an excellent tool for assessing. Like emotive language, it is forceful. This is exemplified by the fact that, obviously, a laptop will not ‘revolutionise your life.’ But it illustrates more clearly that the review thinks highly of the product than just stating, ‘this device will make your life a bit better. 



Paragraph 4


And lastly, paragraph four is your conclusion, in which you state whether you recommend it or not. But there are many devices you can use to do this in a more sophisticated way.



Let’s check out the answers.


No recommendation is as convincing as using an imperative command. Simply instruct the reader to do something by starting a sentence with an infinitive verb.


A rhetorical question implies its own answer. As you can see in this example, the question is followed by an imperative command. This is, therefore, an extremely strong recommendation.


Suggestion or recommendation in the verb form is a slightly softer rhetorical device. On the other hand, it is still effective. Remember always to follow suggest or recommend with either a noun or gerund.


Use should or ought to with an infinitive verb to state that something is a good idea to do.


Once more, opinion phrases like ‘as far as I am concerned’ personalise a recommendation.


The second conditional is an excellent piece of grammar impart advice. Similar to opinion phrases, it humanises a recommendation as it places the writer in the reader’s shoes.



Congrats, you’ve done it. I hope that you are feeling confident about writing a Review. If you feel confident about writing titles, as shown above, then write a review title for your favourite film in the comment section below. The first commenters will receive feedback. Good luck with your exam preparation and please contact homestudies if you need any extra help 🙂



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