Don’t Get Personal in Your Review – Book Review Etiquette

When you review a book, you are giving your opinion of that book. That is what readers and authors expect from you when to produce a book. They want to know what you experienced when you read the book. They want to know what you took from it. It is a personal review from you. It has to be, but you don’t want to get personal at the same time.

What It Means to Get Personal

You are getting personal when you give a review. You can't help it. That is the point of giving the review after reading the book. What I’m talking about when I say ‘personal’ is direct attacks on the author. That kind of personal is uncalled for and not what a review is for.

Never call the author names. That's getting too personal. Never comment on their educational level. That's getting mean. Never refer to their personal life, their heritage or culture. That's hitting below the belt. Never assume they are phobic anything and never stereotype them. That is what it means to get personal. Focus on the book in a mature manner. Don’t go after the author.

How to Avoid Getting Personal

The best way to avoid getting personal is just to focus on the book. Don’t talk about the author at all. Focus on the writing.

Now, many reviewers can still get personal when they focus on the book. They can attack the author through the book and do a darn good job of it. But you can ‘attack’ the book without attacking the author. Give a high quality review instead of a nasty personal one.

Think the writing is too immature? In a sense, no matter what you say about the writing, it will be personal as the writing is an extension of the author. But you can soften the blow where it doesn’t feel like a direct attack on the author. Talk about the fact that the author uses easy words for even those of a younger age to read and understand. State that you felt that the author could have used more advanced vocabulary. Don’t call them juvenile or dumb for not using big enough words for you. Remember that for another reader, the choice of words might be perfect for them.

Think the plot was too boring? Say that you struggled getting into the storyline. Describe what it was about it that was so hard but don’t say the author can’t write a good plot. That’s when it gets personal. Just explain what it was about plot that stopped you from enjoying it.

Think the characters were not deep enough? Explain how the characters didn’t pull you in and that with a little more work they might have. Tell how they could have been created a little deeper and have potential.

See how the less you point fingers, the less personal it can be while at the same time it is saying the same thing. To be honest, the impact can be much stronger when it is stated in a more objective manner. The author will receive it in a more open manner.

Be Supportive

When you write a book review, focus on the book and the writing. Word things in a constructive manner that is not offensive or can be construed as attacking the author. Think of how you would like to be told of mistakes or things people don't like. Don't be nasty if you don't like people to be nasty to you.

A good idea is to write the review and let it sit for a day or two before posting online. Then look at it again and pretend you are the one receiving the review. Tweak it. Then have someone else read it. Get their opinion. Keep in mind that just because you are posting online makes it easier to be nasty to others because you aren't face to face with them. Don't let that rule your thoughts. Pretend you are looking the author in the face and telling them when you thought about their book. No matter what you think, you will act differently when you are face to face with them. Think of that.

Always be honest, but don't go on a personal attack in it. That's what children do on the playground. Act like an adult.

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4 comments

cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 10 months ago from Alton, Missouri

Yes, I agree. And as a professional when we review other writers, it is always a good idea to show rather than tell. This will keep us from attacking. Also, making suggestions on specific passages helps create focus on the book rather than against the author personally. In addition, telling what you liked as well as what you didn't like helps soften the blow when you have something less than favorable to say.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 10 months ago from Wisconsin Author

Good point about what you like. It gives that encouragement. I am shocked at how many get nasty personal.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 10 months ago from Alton, Missouri

Often I think people vent on reviews because they are unhappy people. They can't let those around them know so they take it out on strangers online.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 10 months ago from Wisconsin Author

That could be. So sad.

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