Tag Archives: write

Dear People Who Review Products on Websites

Dear People Who Review Products on Websites,

I’m not sure what part of the phrase “Product Review” is confusing, but clearly there is some clarification that is needed.

When you write a product review, you are supposed to review the product.  When you write a recipe review, you are supposed to review the recipe.  You are not supposed to write a review of the packaging used, the shipping time, or of your own culinary incompetence.  In the past, I felt this was self-evident, but apparently it is not.

For instance, if you purchase a book on Amazon.com and wish to write a review, you are supposed read the book, consider the contents, decide if you liked or disliked it, and write about your like or dislike of the book.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the time the item took to ship.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the cover art of the book.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the author’s other works or a review that simply states how excited you are to read the book before you are actually able to read it.  All of these things serve to give the book in question an inaccurate star rating, which is incredibly unhelpful to the general public.

In the same vein, if you visit AllRecipes.com and wish to review a recipe, you should make the recipe, taste it and decide if you liked or disliked the meal produced from the recipe.  You should not write a review of the recipe if you changed half of the ingredients.  You should not write a review if your own incompetence or ignorance as a cook caused severe problems with the recipe.  You should not write a review if you once tasted a recipe similar that your Great Aunt Miffy made ten years ago and you hated it, like, really, really hated it and no one wanted to eat it and it ruined Christmas.  Once again, these types of reviews only serve to muddy the waters of quality reviews.

If you have genuinely experienced the book, product or recipe that you wish to write about, by all means, review it.  The public has a right to know about the products they are considering devoting money, time and energy to.  However, if you are reviewing anything other than the book, product or recipe at hand, save your comments for a personal blog, your diary or conversation among friends, where they can be properly dissected and not affect the star/spoon/whatever rating that is supposed to indicate the quality of the product.

Thank you for your time.  Please reform your habits.




Dear Users of Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs

Dear Users of Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs,

I would like to make the bold request that you be more precise when speaking/singing/writing.  Using ambiguous nouns and verbs makes it difficult for the reader to decipher what you intend to communicate.  Ambiguity can also result in entrapment or even death, as this letter will no doubt prove.

My first example is something that happened to me today.  I was exploring my school campus, looking for a place to read alone, when I found a really great balcony.  The door leading to the balcony had several signs on it, and I read each one.  Scrawled in some messy penmanship on one of the signs was the statement:

Door will lock after closing.

I thought about this for a moment.  Did the author intend to communicate that the door would lock after the building closed or after the door closed? I went with the former, assuming that, had the writer meant the latter, they would have written something like, “Door will lock when it closes,” or “This door locks from the outside,” or even “Prop the door open by any means if you don’t want to be stuck on a balcony for the rest of your life.”

I soon discovered my mistake and was forced to call a school admin to let me back in the building.  This incident could have been avoided if the wording on the sign had been more specific.

The next example is a very serious one indeed.  You may be familiar with the band The Postal Service.  The opening line of their song “Clark Gable” is:

I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London Underground
When it struck me

What struck you, Postal Service Lead Singer Guy? To what does this “it” refer? Because, to be honest, every time I hear this song, I imagine you standing on the rails, waiting and thinking deep thoughts.  And then I imagine an underground train rushing out of nowhere, hitting, and killing you. (As a side note, I do realize that that intention of the writer is clarified one line later.  However, as a result of the construction of the song, I still feel that the pronoun used here is ambiguous.)

These examples clearly illustrate just how important it is to use clear language.  If you don’t, you may end up in serious danger…or, at least, the subjects of whatever you’re writing, may end up in serious danger.  Either way, it’s something to pay close attention to.

I hope that this letter persuades you to be more careful and specific in your word usage.