How to Write (Great) Reviews

Photographer in SpringThere are so many places, events and activities in Hiroshima that we haven’t yet covered. So, if you’ve done something that you’d like to recommend for our readers, here is some basic advice to get you started for an article on GetHiroshima. We’re looking forward to reading it!

First, it’s important not to take any corrections/edits from the editors to heart- we all make mistakes and seasoned writers will tell you that you need lots of practice over the years to get it right. Here are some sentences that are less than effective in a review. See if you can figure out why and think about how you could improve it.

First-hand but not your own hand

(a) I went to the festival and it was good, but I didn’t really like how hot it was and there wasn’t really anything I wanted to do or eat there.

Write to an audience, it shouldn’t sound like a diary and should have a general tone that readers can relate to.

Straight from the horse’s mouth

(b) My friend said this place opened a long time ago and it looks like the staff are really old, but were very friendly to us.

Use simple English, gestures, Google translate and any helpful people around you to help you communicate and get direct quotes.

Giving good directions

(c) To find it, walk about 500 steps until you see the convenience store, then turn right and go behind the big building and it is there.

Whenever possible, give a google map link. If giving walking directions, use road names whenever possible (not as frequent in Japan as other countries unfortunately) and easily recognizable shop and building names to help navigate.

Break out of the Goldfish Bowl

(d) It looked like they were catching something, but I don’t know what it was.

It is easy to stay in your comfort zone and just write about what is happening around you. It makes for more interesting articles if you engage with what is happening, ask questions and take part.

Now let’s work on some good structure to use in your articles…

kintain bridge festivalBasic article structure

  • Introduction with photo will appear on main page, followed by a break line to the rest of the article.
  • There should be 2-5 more photos and around 350-600 words per article. If you have a lot more to say (than 500-600 words), think about breaking it up into different articles and creating links between them.
  • The last paragraph should reiterate what you said in the introduction; why this place/event is worth taking time to get to.
  • The bottom of the article should have the reference details. If possible, list the name of place in English (Japanese), opening hours or date(s) of the event, the address in English (Japanese), telephone and email or website link. If possible, add a google map link.

Connect with your story and your audience

As mentioned before, while you are reviewing it’s essential to be personally engaged with what you are experiencing, try not to take other people’s words for it. Ask questions and find out for yourself. This should be a fun part of the review writing exercise as well as supply you with more interesting information to report.

Also, think about your article, who are you recommending this to? Imagine you are writing to this audience and try to adjust your language. Think about if you are writing to people your age how might you word it compared to an audience that is your parent’s age? Is it best to cater this review to a specific audience or is it possible to connect to a more general audience? Which audience will find your article most interesting and useful?

Reference the Old & Keep the New

Make sure to check if the article you are planning to write has already been written up on gethiroshima. If it has, yet you have a new angle on the subject, reference (link to) the old article and state your unique angle somewhere in the beginning of the article. As stated in the beginning, there is so much yet unwritten about in Hiroshima. So, if you want some direction from us, drop us a line, we are happy to help!

fushigi ichiDocumentation– photos, pamphlets, tickets, street signs, direction-key photos/descriptions, drawings, nature

As this is this age of the “selfie,” I think readers are very interested in the writer as well as the information. The readers want to identify with the writer as they are reading. Taking photos well may take years of practice, but follow the basics as much as possible: good lighting, good framing, good angles. Most telephones can take pictures that are good enough for articles- choose the highest quality if possible. Higher quality photos also allows more versatility in editing- cropping, framing, etc… Have a look at the photos on GetHiroshima/Flickr

It is possible to express this in how you write, but add to that connection with the audience in your photos. This doesn’t mean you have to actually appear in your photos, but if you allow your shadow, hand or even an original way of taking a photo that shows originality. Using effects on Instagram for your photos is perfectly fine if that helps you convey the tone of the article.

Be Quick to the Catch

Realistically, most readers decide whether to continue reading or not within a few seconds. So make your introduction a good one. Wrap a good photo around the first paragraph and 2-3 more photos alongside the rest of the article. Our readers spend between 2-5 minutes on articles.

Keep it Short (but not too short), Be Positive (yet honest), and Have Fun (within reason)

It is easy to be critical and a challenge to sell the positive side of something new to your reader. Yet this optimistic POV should balance with what is realistic for the audience to expect if they follow your advice. Once you finish writing, leave it for a day or two and come back to it fresh to edit. As you read (and re-read and have a peer read) your article, make small corrections and add any more details that might make it more interesting. Also a good time to cut out any contradictions or repeated information.

sakura surveyYou are your best PR service

Once you finish your review and are published (Congratulations by the way!), ask your friends and peers to have a look and click the “like” button. SMS is a great way to spread the word. Send the link to your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and share your Instagram photos for the article by with the linking to your article. If you have 1 or 2 particularly good photos, add the hashtag #gethiroshima to a Twitter or Instagram post and it will automatically appear on the gethiroshima/facebook feed.

In future, when you look back at your articles and they have hundreds of “likes” it’ll feel great knowing you shared information that people appreciated.

Please feel free to write in with any questions you may have about writing for gethiroshima. Thanks for your interest in being part of the gethiroshima community, we look forward to hearing from you!

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5/2014: This article was created as a reference for teenage writers from TGS who are doing writing projects with gethiroshima.

jjwalsh

Been enjoying living, working in and writing about Hiroshima since '98- co-founder, editor, photographer and writer for GetHiroshima.com / GetHiroshima map + GetHiroshima magazine

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