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Jun 29, 12 at 1:43am ^Saga's Style on User Reviews.
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In this thread I will explain my style for writing user reviews. Most of my style was developed when I started writing user reviews for the site, but, as a neocrs user review reviewer, I read many different user reviews from different users in a month, with different styles, so my style has grown with some ideas I got from other reviews - I hope everyone can get a tiny idea out of my style to incorporate them on their own. In the end, writing user review takes time and writing them can even take some skill.
So, on with the guide!
First, a quick explanation on the User Reviews format (in general).
When you first go to the page to write an user review, you, just have to fill in some things: The game score, the good, the bad, and "comments" (which are optional). Okay, that's not very self descriptive, is it? Well, whether the staff did this on purpose or not, this format allows everyone to have as much freedom with their reviews as they want. Okay, you know the score of the game is, well, how much you think it deserves. The good and bad fields, are, of course the good and bad things you found in the game. And evidently, comments are... Wait, what are comments?
There's an infinite amount of user review styles and they can use the good, the bad, and comments section differently. That being said, how you use these fields is completely up to you. Some people will write complete paragraphs in the good and bad sections, and a personal opinion, maybe, in the comments. Others will write full paragraphs on these sections too, but they may decide to write the comments section empty. A very popular thing to do is to list the good, the bad, and describe them later. Even the list styles can vary. Someone could write a list like this:
Whereas someone else could write this:
Both list styles are perfectly fine, so suit yourself (or even invent something if you want to!). How you use each field is up to you, as long as your review makes sense.
That being said, let's move on...
Now that the format has been explained, I will go ahead and explain my own style.
First, I make a List of things I want to cover.
And I mean it literally. Before I actually write a review, I make a quick list of things I want to cover in my review. It's some sort of checklist that has things like "Talk about the beautiful graphics", "talk about the music", "talk about the easter eggs". Anything I want to talk about the review, I write it in a personal checklist. There could be some peculiar things about a game that I want to talk about, I add them to my checklist as well. A typical checklist of mine looks like this.
As I write my user review, I start scratching the elements I already talked about. In that way I don't get lost in my own user reviews (because they tend to be partially long) and I don't lose the flow. The points here have no specific order... That comes for later.
For me it's important to do a list. It helps keep my head organized and it makes me know what exactly I will talk about. My lists tend to be very specific, so I end up writing long descriptive paragraphs to get my point across. If anything, I recommend anyone to organize their ideas before writing a user review. They help with organization and the thing you built with it will have a wonderful result. Brainstorming as you write is a bad idea; So brainstorm before you even write your first sentence.
How I use the Format.
I use all the fields in the format. Good, bad, and comments. Here, I use a list style for each point. As you saw the two examples I posted about listed good and bad, I actually use a hybrid for them.
Here is an example of my good and bad sections:
quoteTaken from my Tales of Graces F Review.
Something I do with my lists is that I group similar elements together. That is, supposed I want to talk about the game's graphics, the character design, the soundtrack, and the sound effects in the game. An ugly list would be something like this:
quoteWhy is it ugly? Because it's not grouping similar groups together. A better way would be to group everything aesthetic-related first and then everything related to sound, like this.
quoteAs you can see, everything related to graphical beauty comes first and everything related to sound comes second. It just makes sense to talk about the graphics and character design one after another rather than talking about the graphics, then the soundtrack, and then the character design.
Now you may be wondering, does the order of the list matter? That is, does it matter if I talk about graphics first and sound second? Like I said before, it depends on your style, but since we are talking about mine I can tell you that yes, the order does matter. At the top of the lists I put the elements that had the most impact in the game, whether good or bad, and the importance of each element goes down in descending order. I actually tend to change this: There are times when I put the least important elements at top as a way to build a climax for the most important part of the reviews. I don't have a strong set of rules for my lists, but I don't write them in a completely generic order, either.
Okay, okay, what about the actual development of the review?
I would say this is the key element of my user reviews. I start writing paragraphs in the comments section. So what, you say? This paragraphs go hand in hand with the bullet points of my good/bad lists. I write (at least, and ideally) one paragraph for each element on the lists, following the flow of the good/bad lists. Also, the way I write my paragraphs are, first I write the paragraphs for the good things, and then I write the paragraphs for the bad things. But before I actually talk about the elements on the game, the comments section begins with an introductory paragraph.
So I would have the following review:
quoteSnippet taken from my Tales of Graces F review (again).
I try to write one and just one paragraph for each element on the list so the development of the review flows with the lists. Sometimes though, it can't be helped and I need another paragraph for, say, the graphics. But ideally, and most of the time, each list element will get exactly one paragraph as to not interrupt the flow of the review.
One thing I NEVER do is to put something like "I will talk about the bad things now" or anything similar to that. You may have noticed that from the (edited) snippet above. What I do is what I call an "implicit transition" of points. Because I implicitly start talking about the bad things without telling the reader that (explicitly), because the right choice of words lets the reader know that I will talk about the bad things in the game. You can see me up there, I'm happily talking about the good things, but then I start a new paragraph saying "One of the downsides of this game..."; And you can tell I will say something negative "bad" about the game. This is of course, my style, and you may choose to do explicit transitions if you want. Once I start talking about the bad points, I can't write a good paragraph. Yes, I can say positive things in a few sentences about the same things, but after I start writing the "bad" paragraphs, I can't write another "good" paragraph.
Okay, but what if you have two related items that could be grouped together, but one of them is in the "good" section and the other one is in the "bad" section?
Oh, so what if I have something like this, you say?
quoteIn ideal situations, the Graphics and Character Design part could be grouped together in just one section, but sometimes it's unavoidable they will be in different sections. With my style, this does not matter and it does not affect the flow of the reviews. I never ever write bad paragraphs with good paragraphs or vice versa, so if I want to cover the great graphics but the awful character design, then I will cover the great graphics first, and I will talk about the awful character design after I'm done talking about the other good things (in this case, the music and gameplay).
Organization is a really important thing for me. Having a fluid user review is a pleasant thing to read, at least for me.
The Actual Paragraphs.
Having the flow of my reviews organized is important, but I don't let the little details escape. Having each sentence in each paragraph organized and in place is very, very important.
Remember when you were in middle school or beginning high school (probably you still are in one of these, but that's besides the point. ) your teachers would bother you over and over again about how paragraphs should be written? You know, that paragraph structure that just ruins your life because you have to write an introductory sentence, a paragraph body, and an ending sentence? Well yep, sorry but my user reviews follow that same standard format, at least 99% of the time. Why? Becuase it's actually a really simple format to follow and it's logically organized.
A typical paragraph of mine goes like this:
quoteThe first sentence in my paragraphs are a very simple sentence holding a very simple idea. I usually avoid commas or concatenating various ideas in the main sentence. The rest of the paragraph body is to describe, support, and expand the main idea in the first sentence. You can write really long paragraphs this way and once you get the hang of it, you never worry about the length of your user reviews again.
The last sentence can be one of three things: A redundancy regarding the first sentence in your paragraph, a conclusion of the last paragraph, or a (very) short summary you wrote about in the paragraph body (sometimes, you can combine them too!). I don't leave paragraphs open because it can be confusing and ultimately destroy the flow of the user review.
Also, this probably goes without saying but each paragraph is self contained: That means that I can mention the game's soundtrack in a paragraph that talks about the graphics. But of course, if the graphics are great but I find a flaw in them, there's no problem if I put in a little (note, LITTLE) sentence in the paragraph explaining the tiny flaw in them.
There are also times when I, for example, want to talk about the great graphics and want to do emphasis on how great the character design was. Normally, they would get their own paragraphs but what if there isn't much I can say about the character design? In that case, you can have the two elements one below the other in the list, but use just one paragraph to talk about both points:
quoteThat is, just merge them together if they are both good or bad: If one is good but one is bad and you can't talk much about either, try to write a paragraph for each anyways.
And Finally, and endline.One I write the whole review, I write an "endline", usually a sentence or two, saying whether the game was worth it or not.
That is all I can say for now. If you have any critics or comments, please let me know!
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Jun 30, 12 at 9:46pm ^re: Saga's Style on User Reviews.
quote VermillionIt's a pretty good how-to on writing reviews dude.
Do you mind if I add a couple of tips? Like more things to add, or to avoid? In general?
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Jun 30, 12 at 9:49pm ^re: Saga's Style on User Reviews.
I don't think adding your own tips in a thread that talks about my style would be fitting. Unless you want to point something out in my style.
But we should probably open a thread to share general writing tips and the like. Or even better, describe your own style.
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Jun 30, 12 at 10:46pm ^re: Saga's Style on User Reviews.
A tips and titbits thread is on the way!
quote VermillionI don't know man, you've pretty much done that for me. Except I add some swears here and there and I tend to be more blunt.
Perhaps Lukas could explain his?
And the thread is up and running now, Vermillion!
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