Writing Mini-Lessons: Critical Review, Beyond Book Reviews

Critical review is a broad genre, as it is possible to review many goods, services, and experiences.  Newspapers or news and entertainment-oriented websites, shopping websites, sports shows, movie trailers, and print advertisements often offer reviews to help the reader/listener understand the item being reviewed and to evaluate its overall quality. Even if the reader disagrees with a review, this disagreement may foster the reader’s reflection, as he/she ponders beyond the initial reaction to something, thereby encouraging an internal dialogue to understand why he/she likes or dislikes it.

When you write any type of critical review, you, the reviewer, will need to identify, summarize, and evaluate the key ideas, action, and/or information presented. In other words, you will be examining another person’s thoughts, creation, or actions from your point of view.

Your assertions must go beyond your “gut reaction” to the work.  Your argument/opinion must be based in evidence as well as on your knowledge of the topic. Make your viewpoint clear at the beginning of your review, in your evaluations of specific parts, and in your concluding commentary. Remember that your goal is to evaluate the work as a whole, focusing on the salient features, rather than discussing every infinitesimal point.

When writing a review, you must know the language of the discipline.  Below are lists of key jargon associated with various types of critical reviews.

Movie Critics’ Jargon

  1. Screenplay—the script, writing, storyline of a movie
  2. Character Development—well-developed characters who experience growth; people respond to them emotionally and feel they know them as people
  3. Acting—the performance of the actors in their attempt to bring the characters to life
  4. Dialogue—lines used in the movie should fit the characters, the time and place of the story, and the movie’s mood/tone
  5. Cinematography—the filming, visuals, backdrop of the film
  6. Direction—the piecing together of the scenes
  7. Music Score—when and how music is used in the film
  8. Special Effects—when and how effectively unusual scenes are taped for the film
  9. Casting—choosing actors to fit the roles they are portraying
  10. Box Office—the tickets that are sold for a particular movie
  11. Producer—the person who brings the movie to fruition
  12. Director—the person who directs the action during the filming of a movie
  13. Cut—the word used to stop the action during the filming of a movie
  14. Animation—the liveliness of cartoon characters
  15. Oscar—an award presented for professional accomplishment in motion pictures

Sports Reviewers’ Jargon

  1. Goal—the mark to reach in a race or game
  2. Referee—a sports official who decides disputes and enforces rules; in baseball, the referee is called an umpire
  3. Field—the playing area used for certain sports
  4. Court—the space marked for playing certain games
  5. Dugout—the place where baseball players sit when not on the field
  6. Interception—the act of taking the ball from an opposing team
  7. Opponent—the person or team on the opposite side of the game
  8. Dribble—to move a ball along with short kicks, pushes, or bounces
  9. Drill—a training exercise used as instruction and practice
  10. Touchdown—a six-point play in football accomplished when a player has possession of the ball beyond the opponent’s goal line
  11. Tournament—the process of playing a series of contests
  12. Competitors—rival players or teams
  13. Competition—a contest for a prize
  14. Race—a contest of speed
  15. Champion—the person or team that has defeated all opponents in a contest

Performing Arts Reviewers’ Jargon

  1. Musical—a live show that includes acting and singing
  2. Theater—the building in which one enjoys a live performance
  3. Ballet—a classical form of dance that includes specific movements and steps
  4. Opera—a drama in which all parts are sung
  5. Backdrop—the painted back cloth of a stage
  6. Props—the items used in a theatrical performance to simulate a scene (chairs, tables, etc.)
  7. Staging—the placement of props and movement of performers during a live show
  8. Choreography—the arrangements of dance movements for a performance
  9. Intended Audience—the group of people a performance is intended to entertain or to whom the show is best suited
  10. Marionettes—puppets, usually stringed or wired
  11. Symphony—music composed for an orchestra
  12. Orchestra—a group of performers who play various instruments (usually strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion) in a concert
  13. Encore—an additional selection performed in response to audience demand

Music Critics’ Jargon

  1. Rendition—a version of music, an interpretation
  2. Concert—a public performance of music
  3. Orchestra—a group of instrumental musicians
  4. Movement—a division in music
  5. Ensemble—a group of musicians that perform together
  6. Solo—a single musician performing alone
  7. A Capella—singing without instrumental accompaniment
  8. Accompaniment—the background instruments in a song
  9. Duet—two musicians performing together
  10. Symphony—an orchestra
  11. Instrumentalist—a person who performs using an instrument
  12. Opera—a play in which all parts are sung
  13. Composition—a piece of music
  14. Concerto—an orchestral work featuring one or more solo instruments
  15. Band—musicians playing together

Art Critics’ Jargon

  1. Abstract—expressing a quality of something without expressing the object itself
  2. Expressionism—a manner of painting in which natural forms and colors are distorted
  3. Visual Arts—artwork that can be experienced with the eyes (paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, etc.)
  4. Design—the pattern or motif of a piece of art
  5. Motif—the theme of a work of art
  6. Lithograph—an art form that consists of prints made with special inks and equipment
  7. Exhibition—a public display of one’s artwork
  8. Figuration—the act of shaping something into a specific figure
  9. Textile—woven material such as fibers and yarns
  10. Avant-garde—experimental art
  11. Cubism—art that reduces objects to their geometric structures
  12. Collage—pasting items onto a single piece of paper to create a work of art
  13. Bust—the head and shoulders of a person represented in art
  14. Sketch—a rough design or draft of something to be created
  15. Portfolio—a case that carries the loose papers and artwork of an artist

Restaurant Critics’ Jargon

  1. Maître d’—the head waiter at a nice restaurant
  2. Atmosphere—describes the décor, lighting, table arrangements, and general “feel” of a restaurant
  3. Family Style—a restaurant that welcomes children and adults, often offering children’s menus, balloons, and other “extras” for kids
  4. Buffet—a serve-yourself meal
  5. Cafeteria—a restaurant where people serve themselves or go through a line and choose items that someone dishes up for them
  6. Attire—the appropriate dress for a given restaurant
  7. Café—a small, cozy restaurant that usually features small tables, an intimate atmosphere, and sometimes live entertainment
  8. À la carte—the term used for menu items with individually stated prices
  9. Appetizer—something eaten before the main course to stimulate the appetite
  10. Entrée—the main dish of a meal
  11. À la mode—pie or another dessert served with ice cream

Travel Critics’ Jargon

  1. Resort—a place to vacation that usually includes recreation and sleeping facilities
  2. Place of Interest—a geographically or architecturally interesting place to visit
  3. Entertainment Center—a facility that contains video games, miniature golf, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, and/or other family activities
  4. Festival—a number of activities organized in celebration of something
  5. Annual Event—an event that happens once a year
  6. Historical Sight—a place where something of historical interest happened and where individuals today may visit
  7. Transportation—modes of getting from one place to another ( car, train, plane, bus, etc.)
  8. Five Star—typically the top rating of a hotel, restaurant, or resort
  9. Attraction—a place or event that is well attended by tourists
  10. Amusement Park—a recreation park with Ferris wheels, roller coasters, other rides and games, food, and toy vendors
  11. Atlas—a book of maps

News Critics’ Jargon

  1. Newscaster—a person who reports the news on television, radio, podcast, or web video
  2. Broadcast—a radio or television program, podcast or web video
  3. National News—stories of national interest
  4. World News—stories from around the world
  5. Local News—stories about the happenings in one’s own town or county
  6. Highlights—a short summary of the day’s main news stories
  7. Human Interest—stories of everyday people doing heroic or interesting things
  8. Stock Market—a market where stocks and bonds are traded
  9. Business News—news of interest from the business world (corporate buyouts, new products, etc.)
  10. Editorial—letters of opinion written to the editor of a newspaper
  11. Column—a daily piece written in a newspaper by a columnist