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July 10, 2014

Formatting Your Review Posts

by Donna Huber

One of the stressful parts of book blogging is writing reviews. Stress can come from feeling like no one is reading your reviews or the actual writing of the review. Many book bloggers were not English majors, some don't have more than a high school education. I for one was a biology major and writing has always been a weakness for me. Yet, I love to read and I love helping people find new books to read. If you are book blogging, then I assume it's true for you as well. So how do we reduce the stress related to writing reviews?

Think About How Reviews are Formatted
I've been re-writing the website for my work and one of the things I'm changing is the straight texts. When reading about what makes a website effective, I noticed a recurring recommendation. One of the top ways to make websites and posts more readable is focus on format.

People are busy and they don't read content on websites fully. Instead they skim, looking for the highlights or the answers to their questions. Using headings, bullet points, and white space can help draw the readers eye to the content you want them to read.

Headings to Use
In your review posts do you give an overview of the plot? Discuss the characters? You can use these as headers: "what it's about", "meet the players" or more traditionally "summary" and "characters". Other headers could be "why I chose the book", "my thoughts", "the good", "the bad", "the ugly". Word the headers to match your site and voice.

A writing weakness I have is transition sentences. Using a heading often softens the abrupt change in thought. Not struggling with how to segue to my next thought reduces my review writing stress.

Bullet Points in a Review?
I think most book bloggers use an essay format for writing reviews. Our experience with formal reviews or writing are traditional publications. But new media allows for creativity in our writing including how we format our posts.

We were taught that a paragraph should have 3 - 5 sentences. Like with transitions sometimes I have trouble connecting thoughts together in a paragraph form, but a list can convey my thoughts easily and quickly.  Can't decide if you liked a book or not? Make a pro and con list.

If the plot is complicated or has multiple story arcs, then using bullet points can help a reader keep them separate. Same goes for characters and your descriptions of them.

Sometimes books leave me with mixed feelings, and I find sorting them out to be difficulty never mind trying to put them into a coherent paragraph. Instead, I can use bullet points to highlight things done well or to point on things that grated on my nerves without getting too negative.

White Space is Your Friend
Everything tends to run together on the computer screen. Adding in white space can help draw the eye to particular points of note. Going back to the thought that paragraphs need 3 - 5 sentences... It can be more powerful to have a single sentence that stands alone. Often this statement is the "sound byte" that you can use to hook readers into also reading the book.

Think About SEO
Now if stress comes from thinking people aren't reading your post, then you might need to consider the keywords you are using. Again, using headers and bullet points can help you in using proper keywords.

Keywords are the words that one would use when searching for the information your post contains.

For reviews, the major keywords are book title, author's name, genre. It is important to have the big keywords in the opening paragraph and then repeat them a few times throughout the post. One of your headers might be "similar romance". I often see search terms that are along the lines of "what to read after x". Also having other titles in your post that are similar to the book you are reviewing can lead people to your review.

Rethink Your Review Format
If writing reviews is causing you anxiety, then consider changing up your format. It could prove to be fun for your readers.

Have you thought about interviewing yourself about the book you recently read? A Q&A can help organize your thoughts, while providing headers of a sort to direct your reader's attention.

Using headers and bullet points can improve readability of posts and ensure you are using keywords effectively. You may also find that it quickens the writing process and saving time can always reduce blogging stress.

Have you tried formatting your reviews differently? What did you do and how did it go over with your readers?


Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.



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