Write in Style: A Guide to Good English

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview

13

REVIEWS
A review is an essay that draws attention to and passes comment on a topical matter-the publication of a book, the release of a record, the opening of a stage play or film, and so on. Reviews are usually quite short, mainly because a sizable number of things need reviewing each week, and space is at a premium in all journals and newspapers. So even if you're given a generous word allowance for a review, you need to be as concise as possible. * Any review must do these three things:
1. Tell the reader broadly what the book/play/film/etc. is about and what it's like.
2. Give a clear sense of what the reviewer thinks of it.
3. Say whether it's worth spending money on.

That seems straightforward enough, but a lot of reviews fail to do one or more of these things.

The worst kind of review is that which indulges a frenzy of self-advertisement on the reviewer's part, offering little or no information about what he or she is allegedly assessing. Hardly less bad, albeit more humble, is the reviewer who is either too scared to venture a clear opinion or not interested enough in the work to care about doing so. And there is an additional complication that can threaten the quality and integrity of even well-written reviews.

Quite simply, reviewing is an industry, and an ever-growing one. A single, non-specialist organ like The Sunday Times carries thirty pages of reviews every week, on everything from books to restaurants, cars to compact discs, holidays to TV programmes. The chances of any reader experiencing all these things is nil; consequently, the review can easily become a substitute for experience rather than an inducement to it. That is a large issue, and this book is not the place to explore it fully. What I must say, however, is that because reviewing is an industry, it is not

* If being concise causes you problems [it does for all of us at times!], you may find it helpful to consult Chapter 16, Précis and Summary, where the skills involved in writing with maximum economy are analysed in detail.

-192-

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Write in Style: A Guide to Good English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • From the Reviews: vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Exercises xi
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • Preface xv
  • Part One - Engage Brain and Ear Before Writing 1
  • 1 - Disasters 3
  • 2 - Triumphs 9
  • Part Two - Foundations 13
  • 3 - Introduction 15
  • 4 - Bone Structure 16
  • 5 - Joints 28
  • Part Three - Style 65
  • 6 - Introduction: Style Versus Fashion 67
  • 7 - Fight the Flab 70
  • 8 - Voice 109
  • Part Four - Tailor-Made 139
  • 9 - Introduction 141
  • 10 - Letters 142
  • 11 - Essays 161
  • 12 - Articles 189
  • 13 - Reviews 192
  • 14 - Reports 194
  • 15 - Minutes 199
  • 16 - PrÉcis and Summary 203
  • 17 - Reportage 225
  • Part Five - Grammar Primer 229
  • 18 - Grammar Primer 231
  • 19 - Inflections 274
  • 20 - Syntax 286
  • 21 - Parts of Speech (Advanced) 294
  • 22 - Punctuation in Speech and Quotation 315
  • 23 - Spelling and Confusibles 327
  • Appendix: Answers to Exercises 343
  • Further Reading 355
  • Authors, Sources and Named References 359
  • Subject Index 361
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