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Are List Style Reviews Easier?

Book Discussion

What a boring title…. I need to work on that. But! I am really excited about this topic of the format of reviews. I write my reviews in a very structured way with an opening paragraph, the information about the books, the strengths, the weaknesses, and a summary for people who skip to the bottom ;-). I definitely use a “list” format for my reviews every single time. This is in stark contrast to the paragraph style that you generally find on book review blogs. From time to time I see people use a list style when they declare they are feeling lazy or having trouble coming up with thoughts on the book. I suppose you could make the argument that I feel lazy at all times when reviewing (being a grad student is hard D:), but I am also making a deliberate choice to use the format that I do for two reasons: I like writing list reviews and I like reading list reviews.

Easier to Write?

I tried to write paragraph reviews when I first started book blogging a year and a half ago. I really did try. But I’m horrible at it! I found myself rambling on and on or completely stumped. I would find myself sitting at the computer feeling my soul was being sucked out through my fingertips, and I don’t really want a hobby to suck my soul out through my fingertips, ya know? It seems that hobbies should by definition not suck out souls (unless your hobby is literally soul sucking I guess…. Weird thought, moving on!) As soon as I started making a list of what I liked and disliked, I found myself so much happier writing reviews and much happier with the end product. I think at first I meant to make an outline and then write in paragraphs. But then I thought through what seemed to be easiest for readers (from my perspective!), and I decided to just stick with what seemed easier all around. And really, I know that if I hadn’t made that switch, I wouldn’t have kept book blogging!

Easier to Read?

That brings me to the reader’s perspective :D. Obviously I’m just one person, but I didn’t really have the time to form a product testing group when I started book blogging, so my opinion was the one I went with ;-). When I do find a review that is in list form, I have such an easier time reading it! I often find myself skimming reviews that are in paragraph form, reading the first sentence of each paragraph to try to get the idea. I basically am turning the paragraphs into lists in my head. We are all busy people, and I find myself reading blog posts when the boyfriend is watching TV or when I’m bleary-eyed in the morning, e.e. times when I’m not really able to give 100% attention to what I’m reading. Lists make it a lot easier for the portion of my brain that is capable of paying attention to know what is going on, hehe.

I think it’s likely I’m in the minority on this one, given the number of reviews that are written in paragraph form. I’m really interested to hear the other side. What is it that makes you enjoy writing paragraph style reviews (if you do)? Do you have a strong preference on which form you prefer to read? (Hopefully you don’t completely hate list-style reviews given the blog you’re reading, hehe.) What do you think the strengths of both styles are?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings -Anya

© 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. I’m just gonna comment on this year-old discussion to say that I like reading your reviews because they’re a) funny and b) easy to read. You get to the point, whereas some reviews drag on for paragraphs and never really say anything. I like writing paragraph reviews because writing is something that sort of comes naturally to me. The hardest part is remembering stuff from the book to write down. I also like to provide as full and accurate of a picture as possible. Not saying you don’t, but I love details. Obviously. ;)
    Kate @ The Book Bee recently posted…REVIEW: Masquerade by Melissa de la CruzMy Profile

    • Dude, commenting on old discussion posts is the best! I always hope that people will stumble across these since I work so hard for a post that only gets seen for about a week usually and then languishes in the archives ;-)

      And thank you so much! I feel like I have a rather dorky humor, so I worry that people will just roll their eyes when I start getting silly in review, but if I’m not me then why bother right??? I have found that my bullet points have transformed from being one short sentence each to small paragraphs each depending on how much I have to say about a point and how tired I am, haha.

  2. This is a great discussion topic. I’m new to blogging and still trying to figure out what I feel comfortable with. Up to now I’ve been writing paragraphs of my thoughts and then a final summary with my rating. But I have a tendency to ramble and write out of sequence, as well as spending too much time describing what goes on in the book instead of how what I thought. So I have been contemplating switching up my format to either bullets of pros and cons similar to you, or using set subheaders i.e. characters, setting, writing, narration etc. I’m still throwing the ideas around in my head but want don’t want to leave it too long before deciding the best way to review going forward,

    • @Helen: There is no real need to rush. If you stick with blogging for very long you will discover that revamping old content is part and parcel of the process. Fixing outdated broken links, replacing poor images, or adding updated information to old posts is good for both your SEO and your readers. Once you settle on a format you like, you can always reformat the old posts later.

      Its is all part of the fun. It reminds me of visiting an old friend and catching up on what is new. :>)

      • Oo, that reminds me that I still need to fix some of my old reviews D: But yes, I agree with Mulluane 100%, don’t stress about make a firm decision, just try stuff out as long as you need to

    • Subheaders work well too, I like to use them in discussion posts. You can try out both and see which works for you most of the time :)

  3. I’ve decided to try this style and have posted a review using my version. I think I like it, but will try it with a few more reviews before I decide to adopt it. Thanks for this post. It definitely made me remember why I named my blog Notes from a Readerholic…lol.

    • Hehe, notes are the best! I always put too much pressure on myself to sound fancy, but I’m not good at that, and often it works out better in the end since I stress less ;-)

  4. I like the style, because you can easily skip to bits you want to know about if you’re in a rush, plus it’s neat. I might have to try and use it myself, because sometimes when writing reviews I end up moving bits and paragraphs around a bit so the order looks more natural.

    • I was actually going for reading even when in a rush :D. I always have trouble when moving paragraphs because I forget to fix the transitions, haha

  5. I like the list style. I skim reviews because book bloggers tend to make them too long. I used to write really short ones til everyone kept harping on me that they needed to be longer. Now I’m on the mind that I could totally shorten them again. I add in quotes into my reviews because I think those really suck people in. I like reviews that are short and sweet so all praise your list reviews!!

    • It is tricky to hit the right length, I’m not a fan of only like one paragraph beyond the synopsis, but 100 paragraphs leads to skimming ;-). I keep meaning to include more quotes, but I never mark them when I read them and then there is no hope for remembering, haha

  6. I did list reviews for a while too, when blogging began to get overwhelming. Now I use a tabbed shortcode that breaks my reviews up into sections and makes them easier to manage/read.

  7. It depends on what comes to mind first, but I agree, list style reviews are easier for the reader! I think I should start writing more of these..

  8. I am so guilty about the entire “I feel horrible/lazy so here is a list”. I am glad you came forward and said that you actually write a list on purpose. I usually find my list reviews are better and get more readers, so I might be slipping into list-style reviews for a bit.

    And if I am honest, I would rather read a list review. Hey, what can I say. I am swamped, and the format is easier for my eyes to follow.

  9. I definitely like your list style reviews, but I don’t find paragraph style reviews harder to follow – usually. You’re right that they can turn into rambling. Personally I take bullet point notes, re-read them to figure out what order I want to put the information in, and then start writing my paragraph style reviews :)

    • That sounds like a nice way to write reviews, maybe if I had tried writing outlines and turning them into paragraphs I would have done better xD Apparently high school writing classes failed me!

  10. I haven’t seen too many reviews in list form, but I looked at yours and I like them. I’m not sure I could make it work, but I might give it a try sometime.

    • Yey, thanks! They are pretty nice to do I must admit, I think it helps me from getting stressed and intimidated by review writing as well

  11. I’ve never really thought about how I write reviews, I just write them! I think people may find a certain structure easier to read, but mostly it’s down to the strength of the writing and the observations made in the review that stand out for me.

    • Fair enough! It definitely comes down to the individual reviewer’s strengths it seems, so whichever style is more comfortable is best :)

  12. I have 2 thoughts on this one. I was nodding my head with what flipthatpage said because I review the same way. I just start typing out my gut reactions to the book. Then I go back and edit it into something I hope is coherent. But…

    Look at what you did above with headings. I read somewhere recently that clear, formated, eye catching headings make it so much easier for busy folks to skim the page, reading only what they are really interested in.

    Not lists per se, but something like Synopsis, My thoughts, Content, Conclusion (just making these up as I go along) as nice bold headings between paragraphs. After reading that article I realized it was entirely correct. When I go looking for something specific (usually html or css related), I appreciate a post with headings I can quickly scan to discover if that post contains the answer I seek. When I’m in a hurry, and the page is not clearly formatted, I tend to go looking for one that is.

    But can I do that with the rambling way I review? Of that I’m not sure. I’ll have to think on it some more.

    • I do love headings :D That’s the only way that I can handle discussion posts actually, since otherwise I start twitching at the paragraphs ;-)

  13. OMG. Are you, for some reason, my conscience in flesh? I am sooo guilty of this post. If I’m feeling lazy or if I hate the book I’m reading, I definitely do the old reviewing standby and just bullet all my thoughts. >,< Like you, whenever I write a paragraphed review, I usually find myself at a loss. There are a lot of times that I struggle on how to make my paragraphs coherent. So if i'm feeling really impatient, I just say, "screw this" and go on with listing my thoughts.

    But as a reader of a review, I think it would be easier to read bulleted or numbered reviews because it's more direct to point… no beating the bush and you avoid reading a lot of repetitiveness. At the end of the day, it's still up to your reviewing style just as long as you were able to get the message across. :D

    Thoughts and Pens

    • *pokes self* I hope not, that sounds awkward ;-) I think I’m less good at the filler and transitional sentences that are necessary for nice paragraph reviews too, so I end up feeling stupid writing paragraphs that don’t sound as awesome as everyone else’s hehe

  14. Yep, I definitely agree with you. I love your reviews for this reason. Easy to read and much more to the point! I don’t often have a lot of time for reading many paragraphs in reviews (even though I often structure my reviews in a few paragraphs). I think for me, it really just depends on how well I can articulate my thoughts about a book. I tend to do lists when I need to sort out my thoughts on the book, or if I specifically want to list out things (pros/cons, whatever) about the book.

    • Hehe, I think I just always have trouble getting my thoughts in order xD I’m much more of an active thinker, where I can’t even start thinking until I start jotting notes. It makes solo homework assignments a pain D:

  15. I find both ways easy to read. The only time I have a complaint against paragraphs is if it gets too rambly. But, as long as there is some structure, some separation of thoughts, I’m fine. Personally, I write paragraph style. I don’t think I could do lists because, though I write about the same basic stuff in every review, it varies from book to book, depending on what I fell I need to point out. But, I always structure mine in a certain way, so I think I’m clear in how I detail my thoughts.
    Good discussion! The format preference for reviews is one I’ve wondered about a lot :)

    • I do find occasionally that I need another section of just “things you should know that I don’t think are strengths or weaknesses” though I just try to work that into my intro or summary paragraphs, hehe.

  16. Hmm… I’m a bit torn on this one, I admit XD I use paragraphs on my own blog, and long long clusters of them too! D: But of course, I heartily approve of your style of reviewing, since that makes it easier for me to grasp your thoughts. However, I think it depends on the reviewer as much as it does the reader. In my case, I tend to just pour forth all of my ideas, non stop, so I tend to write lengthy reviews. I’ve never come across a complain about it before, so I guess I can stick to that format for now :D Great discussion here!

    • Hehe, understandable! Yes, it definitely depends on the reviewer and everyone should obviously write in the way they enjoy most because we’re all doing this for fun after all :D I’m honestly a little bit jealous of your ability to put your ideas down in paragraph form!

  17. List-style reviews are definitely easy to read, though I don’t mind long chunks of paragraphs, either. It’s nice to see the point-by-point stuff, what you consider the most relevent info.

    I couldn’t write them to save my life, though. I’ve tried in the past, and what ends up happening in that I want to elaborate on a point that I made and it gets even more rambly than if I’d just allowed myself to write paragraphs in the first place. Definitely something I need to work on as a writer, but for the moment, reviews done in paragraphs is definitely the way I prefer going about mine.

  18. Jenn @ A Glo-Worm Reads says:

    I actually really like your lists, I find them much easier to read than a long cluster of paragraphs. I have thought about switching to lists, since it would be easier, since I sometimes struggle and find myself trying to figure out how to word my thoughts. But I do really like the lists! Maybe I will try it out sometime and we’ll see how it goes :)

    • Yey, thanks :D I frequently see people use lists on the reviews they have trouble with, so that would definitely be something try

  19. Haha they are much easier to write! I write my review in bullet points before I turn them into paragraphs. That way I can pretty much write everything that crossed my mind about the book without worrying that they’re incoherent. THEN I turn them into coherent paragraphs.

    Personally, I don’t like seeing long paragraphs… I don’t mind a lot of paragraphs but if they’re are only two paragraphs but they’re HUGE…makes me too lazy to read haha.

    As for your reviewing style, just stick to what you’re comfortable with! It’s your blog — you can do whatever you want :) Lists are awesome!

    • Hehe, agreed, short paragraphs that are each to the point work for me to read too! Yey lists! I think I planned to translate the bullet points into paragraphs like you do, but then I forgot >.>

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