Education

Technical Reviewing Basics – Tips For New Reviewers

Reviewing another author’s work is fun. With so many different items posted on the Internet, looking for feedback, it is tempting to give writers encouraging and helpful reviews.
It is true to say that the content of an item is the most important. This is what will grip the reader; this is what the reader will remember. However, if the reader stumbles over technical errors, I think it is fair to assume that sooner or later that reader will give up and move on. Not a pleasant memory, then…
This article will cover some common errors you are highly likely to come across as a reviewer. I will also offer suggestions for pointing out these errors to the author.
Spelling Errors
A main error reviewers seem to come across is the “i vs I” issue. This is a clear indication that an author was happily typing away and didn’t use a spell check before posting the item on a writing website. 99 percent of the time there isn’t a good reason not to capitalise the “I”.
I suggest making a note of it. Suggest to the author that unless they have a reason for not capitalising, it would be correct to change it. You don’t have to point out every instance; you can just make a general suggestion.
Typos happen to all of us. In the excitement of writing, it is easy to hit the wrong keys. Spell checks do not always catch typos, not when they form a word you did not intend to use, but which is still a correct word in itself.
If there are but a few typos, it is easy enough to point them out to the author and suggest the word you think they intended to use.
If the item is full of typos, however, this would soon get frustrating. In such a case I advise gently pointing the author in the direction of a program such as MS Word, which will catch at least the majority of errors.
Do not feel shy to suggest this. We are not here to completely edit an item. It is the author’s responsibility to present their work as legible as possible.
Note – Some authors use American English. Some authors use British English. Both are correct, but the differences can lead to confusion for the new reviewer.
Differences can include such words as “colour” (British English) and “color” (American English). Another example is “realize” (American English) and “realise” (the common spelling in British English). Other versions of English may apply, too, depending on the author’s country of origin.
If you are not sure something is actually an error, or simply down to different use of the English language, I advise to just let it be.
Punctuation Errors
The most common punctuation error reviewers come across is a lack of periods. Again, it would seem that some authors get excited about their writing and they simply do not take the time to put that little dot in place.
You could choose one example in your review to illustrate that fact and suggest the author has a look at their item to add further punctuation. You could also add that adding punctuation aids the overall clarity and reading experience.
Another common issue is an overabundance of commas. When the amount of commas does not seem to make any sense, it is helpful to make a note of this.
Again, you could take a sentence from the piece to illustrate your suggestion.
Many writers, especially those just getting started on their journey, have trouble with the correct use of quotation marks. If this is the case in an item you are reviewing, it is helpful to give an example of the correct use. Alternatively, you could provide the author with a link to a website of your choice, which will explain the use of quotation marks through handy examples.
Punctuation in poetry is more difficult to analyse – the poet has some liberty as to its usage. Some poets prefer not to use any punctuation at all. Some poets use “proper” punctuation throughout their piece. Some poets only use punctuation where they think it serves a purpose.
The best advice I can give you is to read the poem out loud and see if the punctuation aids the rhythm and flow of the item, or if it hinders it.
If punctuation has been left out where it would be natural to place it, or if there is an inconsistent use of punctuation where it should be consistent, it is helpful to advise the poet of this.
Whilst we are on the topic of poetry – you will find that use of capitalisation is another matter where personal preference counts for a lot. Some poets start each line capitalised. Some let capitalisation depend on the individual sentences within the poem. Some seem to make random use of it. Some leave it out completely.
If you feel that their specific use of capitalisation (or lack thereof) hinders the reading experience, it makes sense to point this out. To not hurt any artistic feelings, it is advisable to note that you are aware that the use of capitalisation in poetry is a matter of personal preference but… and then you can give your reasons for your suggestion.

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