GMR Uniform Style Sheet
This is a uniform style sheet for writing reviews at GMR. Please check back on occasion to see if the page has been updated.
Sending Reviews: Send reviews in the body of a plain text e-mail, not as HTML, nor as file attachments.
Formatting Reviews: All reviews must be at least 300 words long. Use wrap-around text with no line breaks. Place all introductory information -- author/artist, title, etc. -- in a heading at the top of the review (see heading formatting below). Don't indent paragraphs; double space between each paragraph. Place asterisks (*) around titles of books, albums, films, etc. throughout your review, to indicate that they need to be in bold print.
Example: This review is about Emma Bull's novel *War for the Oaks*.
Place quotation marks around the titles of short stories and songs.
Example: One of the best songs on this CD is "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."
If you have word or phrase you'd like to emphasize by bold print or italics in your review, mark it like a title, with asterisks (*) around it.
Formatting Review Headings: You must put a heading at the beginning of each of your reviews, including the following information. Please note punctuation in examples.
Book Reviews: Author or Editor, *Title* (Publisher, Date). Note commas and parentheses. Identify editor if given instead of author.
Example: Jill Smith, *Folk Tales From Indianapolis* (Indiana Books, 2001)
OR: Jill Smith, editor, *Folk Tales From Indianapolis* (Indiana Books, 2001)
Film and Video Reviews: *Title* (Production Company, Year of Release)
Example: *Wings of Desire* (MCA, 1987)
Live Performance and Gig Reviews: *Act*, Venue, Location including country (Date)
Example: *BC & The Blues Crew*, Live at the Bluebird Blues Festival, Largo, Maryland, USA (September 13, 1999) Note that Maryland is spelled out in full, not abbreviated as "MD."
Music Reviews: Artist, *Title* (Record Company, Date)
Example: Richard Thompson, *Mirror Blue* (Capitol, 1994)
Interviews: *Interview with Name of Interviewee* (Location if Applicable, Date)
Example: *Interview with Tyrone Slothrop* (Berlin, Germany, May 5, 1945)
GRAMMAR & SYNTAX
Names. You must get the names of authors, musicians, characters, etc., right and spell them correctly. Editors and proofreaders, unless they are familiar with the work you are reviewing, usually have no way of knowing if a name is incorrect.
Example: Don't spell her name Catherine if it's Katherine. Don't call him Charles if he goes by his nickname, Chaz.
URLs and Links. Web site is spelled "Web site," not "Website." E-mail is spelled "e-mail," not "email." The "Internet" is capitalized, as is the World Wide Web, or Web.
Providing Links. When you provide a link in your review, format it as follows. If you are referring to another GMR review, provide the relative URL in square brackets.
Examples: [waterboys.html] or [book/book_carusso_nartsagas.html]
For other Web sites, provide the absolute URL.
Here are examples of how you'd provide these links in your review.
We've also reviewed another Waterboys album, which you can find here [waterboys.html].
For more information on legends from the Caucasus, see Eric Eller's review of John Carusso's book, *Nart Sagas from the Caucasus* [book/book_carusso_nartsagas.html].
The Waterboys have a Web site of their own, with information about albums, band members and tour dates, here [http://www.bumbershoot.com/waterboys.html].
Punctuation. You are free to use the punctuation and spelling accepted in whatever country you live in. Both the American style of double quotation marks and the British style of single ones are acceptable. However, if you use double quotation marks as Americans do, please remember that commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, but colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation marks (when not a part of the quoted material) do not. If you use single quotation marks, all other punctuation goes outside the quotation marks unless it is part of the quoted material.
Spelling. Spellcheck your review before you send it in, whether by using a computer spellcheck program or your eyes. The fewer mistakes you send us, the fewer we will miss and put up on the Web site.
Sign your review with the name you wish to be known by at GMR. It should match the one you use in your bio. In other words, if in your bio you refer to yourself as Jane Tennyson, don't sign your review Jane Byron Tennyson, and vice versa. Include the proper relative link to your bio.
Example: Grey Walker [bio/grey_walker.html]
Omnibus Reviews: An omnibus is a review of two or more CDs, films, videos, books, live performances, or a mixture of these genres -- such as two CDs and a tunebook, or a book and three film versions of that book. They must have something in common, i.e., subject matter, musical genre, artist, etc. The whole review should be at least 500 words, though each item can be covered in two or three paragraphs apiece (in general, however, omnibus reviews are quite a bit longer than 500 words). List the items in your review heading in the order you refer to them in the review. It helps to open your review with a paragraph explaining why these items are being reviewed together, instead of in separate reviews. Include some comparison between the items in the review, if applicable.
Honest Reviews: You may write a negative review if you think the item warrants; however, we insist that you be honest and fair, and give reasons for your opinion, instead of just saying "I hated it. It sucked."
EIWAs: There are three criteria which a review must meet to earn an Excellence in Writing Award:
1) The review must be technically flawless, or as nearly so as possible. A couple of typos are fine, but the grammar, spelling, punctuation and so on must be correct and in keeping with GMR's overall style sheet.
2) The review must be thorough. It must cover all aspects of the item being reviewed, and contain not just a synopsis or a listing of contents, but critical consideration of each element. In other words, it should be a review, not just a summary or report. If further sources are available online, the review should make note of them, especially if they happen to be prior GMR reviews. Background information and/or links about the author, artist, illustrator, series, topic, etc., as they add depth and clarity to the review, should also be included.
3) The review should be interesting. This is admittedly the most subjective criterion. The only way to get a true sense of what GMR editors find "interesting" is to read reviews that have been awarded Excellence in Writing Awards in the past. Creativity, on the other hand, will often extend the boundaries of what is interesting.
Style Notes for Specific Materials
When reviewing books, pay attention to any special features the book has. For example, if a book has illustrations, foot or endnotes, appendices, indices, glossaries, or bibliographies, comment critically on their extent and quality. For children's books or graphic novels, the illustrations are often a large and primary component. If this is the case in the book you are reviewing, consider listing the illustrator along with the author in the heading of the review.
Works of fiction often have unexpected plot twists or outcomes. For this reason, as well as leaving plenty for the reader to discover on his or her own, use a light touch when giving an overview of the plot. Don't give too much away!
Whenever possible, place the CD in the context of the artist's career, and in the context of the genre of the music.
Always include an album's complete title in the heading of your review, including the subtitle, if there is one. This accuracy helps our readers when they're ordering the album, or referring to one of our reviews elsewhere.
FILM & VIDEO
DO: The review is strongest written in present tense and active voice.
AVOID: Avoid saying that some aspect of it was "well done" (images of charred meat coming to mind) or its variants... "well-made", "well-acted", etc. Avoid blurting out "What can I say?" If you, the reviewer, don't know what you can say, who does? Avoid saying it was "worth seeing", "worth watching" and the like. We're not judging the worth of the viewer's time as compared to the film. We're reviewing the film, and letting the viewer make his own decisions about whether it's 'worth his time'. And go easy on the use of "we" and "us" as in "we can all identify with..." or "all of us have felt...". Feel free to say "I" and include personal reactions to the film, but hesitate to assume that everyone is the same. Instead of saying it was "very poignant", "very touching", 'very special', etc., which doesn't so much review as sum up the reviewer's wish to review, explain what you mean by those adjectives. The stereotypical review is an exercise in adjectival phrases: "stunning triumph!", "scintillating masterpiece!" Having a quotable blurb in the review is a good idea, but if the whole piece is like that, it isn't a review at all. It's masturbation.
SYNOPSIS: Perhaps one to three paragraphs. The rest is theme, acting, casting, camerawork, soundtrack, SFX, directing, propwork, wardrobe, etc.
DIALOGUE: "You wanna piece of me?" or "Come over here and make me!" is not exactly scintillating dialogue. "I know to love you is a treason against my king, but not to love you is a treason against my heart" well... that's a different matter. What should we expect from this film?
THEME: What theme(s) stood out, and how effectively?
PLOT: What specific aspects of the plot were particularly interesting or annoying or incorrect or destructive to the integrity of the story or bewildering?
CAST: If someone is "perfect" in their role, or "awkward", why?
SETTING: Why it worked or didn't. If a forest is lush, tell us just a little more... Was it lush New Zealand forest?
ADJECTIVES & EXAMPLES: If there's a descriptive adjective rather than just an approving one, that's what you want. "Insightful", "tense", "taut", "exotic"... are better than "good" or "well". Couple a descriptive adjective with an example, and you've reviewed something!
PERSONAL REACTIONS & OBJECTIVE TREATMENT: Balance them.
SPOILERS: "Never give away the punchline."
RESEARCH: Whose score? Past films of some cast members? Relevant Web/GMR links are always wanted. Linking to the imdb entry is always appreciated.
NEED MORE TO TALK ABOUT? How about: swordsmithing, armoring, period accuracy, areas of departure from any "original"; if it's a remake, tell us as much as you can about the other versions; reasons the film was made, what the director was thinking, if that info is available, points of special interest, and so on.
This style sheet is kept updated by Cat Eldridge. If you have any questions about any aspect of the style sheet, please feel free to contact Cat.