Everyone has an opinion these days about movies, books, music, and culture. But what separates the average viewer, listener, and reader from the pros? The answer is style, form, and experience. You can’t become a world-renowned critic overnight, but if you follow these tips, you’ll soon be on your way to sounding like one!

1. Take lots of notes. While watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book, or attending a cultural event, make sure to take copious notes. The best way to do this is to carry a pocket-sized notebook with you everywhere you go. Some critics even purchase special lighted pens, so they can write in the dark.

2. State your opinion, but leave room for the reader’s opinion, too. Some reviewers try to force their opinion down readers’ throats. This is not the best model to follow. It is possible to have forceful opinions, but provide enough details for the reader to come to her own conclusions.

3. Summarize succinctly. Essential to every good review is a summary of the thing being reviewed. However, a delicate balance must be struck between giving the reader enough specific information about the structure of the movie, music, or book and spoiling the reader’s experience. Be careful to provide the right amount of details in your description.

4. Know what you’re talking about. You’d be surprised by how many reviewers ignore this common sense rule. If you a reviewing a movie, it helps to have seen the previous movies made by the director. If you are reviewing a book, it helps to be familiar with the author’s other works. If you are reviewing music, it helps to be acquainted with all of the music by a particular singer/songwriter or group. At the end of the day, it helps to know something about the subject you are reviewing.

Your turn!

Now that you’ve read these professional tips, take your notebook to the movies, to a concert, or to the library and write a practice review of something that interests you!