Reviews: Why You Should Read Them and How to Write Them

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about my blogging- especially by people I know in my real life- is: “How do you do all of those reviews?” They want to know more than just how I find products to review. They want to know how I find the time and how I know how to review a product. Often they want to know if they can get involved in reviewing. This isn’t going to be a “how to” post. I have one of those here. This post is to answer another frequent question that pops up in my discussions about reviews- “Why?”.

Why not? Really, I love to read reviews. Much of my shopping now is done online. I can’t walk into a store and physically pick up the product I’m thinking about. I can’t look it over or take it to another aisle to compare it to another item. I’m basically just taking the producers word about the product. And the manufacture/publisher/producer is going to have only good things to say about the product. Enter the reviews.

I can scan the reviews of the product. I like to read some of the highest reviews and some of the lowest reviews. I want to know why someone liked it or didn’t like it. I don’t want fifty five star reviews and only one one star review. That doesn’t make me think that everyone loves the product. It makes me think that mostly friends of the developer wrote the reviews. Instead let me see why some people loved it and why some people hated it.

This is especially true for homeschool curricula. I want to know exactly why the reviewer liked it or didn’t like it. One child may have done beautifully with one writing program, but my child may be a totally different learner. If all I read is a gushy post about how wonderful the program is, I can’t tell if it would work for me. Instead I like to read what the reviewer liked and why it worked so well. I also want to read those low reviews to know why it didn’t work for that family. It’s okay if the review is only one star. Maybe all the things I read that the poster hated really are things I love.

A review is my way of “picking up, turning over, comparing” the product without being able to physically do so. It’s the way I can shop even when I don’t have something tangible to work with. So I love to read reviews.

I began writing reviews for the same reason. I thought- “If I love to read reviews, other people must love to read reviews.” And so a passion for writing reviews was born.

I started by just writing reviews for books I loved and products I loved. I wasn’t paid. I wasn’t compensated in any way. I didn’t get anything for free. I just did it so that other people could read it.

Then I realized that companies and authors and manufacturers liked to give their products to people willing to offer good, honest reviews. And I thought: “You mean I could actually get things free just to review things the way I already like to do? Cool!” And I began to branch out and review products that I received for free in exchange for my reviews.

Some people ask me if it is difficult to write a review: “What should I say?” Imagine you are talking to a friend at church. In the conversation you mention this really cool new blender you just bought. You talk about how great it is, how it blends any kind of liquid, how it can make smoothies and yogurt and ice cream. You describe how it works and throw in the price range because you thought it was a really good deal. And Ta Da! you just wrote a review.

Start reading those reviews for things you’re thinking of buying online. Start writing reviews for books or products or curricula you’ve used. Reviews are extremely useful in our online buying culture. Make good use of them and contribute when you can.

Many websites have reviews on the product page. Those are great to read. But you can find independent sites that review products also. Here are some great review sites I like to use.

Schoolhouse Review Crew: This blog focuses primarily on reviewing homeschool curricula and products that homeschool families can use. Your’s truly is a reviewer for the Crew, and I have been impressed with the variety of curricula that we get and the depth of some of the reviews.

Homeschool Reviews: This is another great curricula review site I’ve used. I can type in just about any curricula I’m looking at, and I can read positive and negative reviews from a variety of reviewers.

PC Magazine: I’ve come across this one when I’ve googled “technology” reviews. There are reviews of lots of techie gadgets and comparisons of different products.

Often you can just find good review sites by googling “reviews of…”. I use this if the product I’m considering is kind of random but I want some other reviews besides just Amazon.

On a side note, if you want to laugh yourself silly some night, browse through some of these Amazon products and begin to read the reviews. I like to look up some of these when I need a good laugh. Don’t turn the kids loose on them unless you’ve read them all first because unfortunately some cross the line between hysterical and crude. But there are many that are just hilariously funny.

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