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Guidelines for Writing a Product Review

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TCS Members - have fun while providing a service for other TCS members. Learn a new program, read a good book, test a piece of hardware .. then tell others about what you discovered. Do a Product Review .. and the product is usually yours to keep!

Choosing a software program, a piece of hardware or a book to review is not difficult. Pick an item that interests you, that can be run on your operating system, and that is near your level of expertise.

Writing a review is not difficult. Follow these guidelines. Hint: Use recent Product Reviews as examples.

I Mechanics

  1. General:
    1. 500-1000 words.
    2. Adequately cover the product.
    3. Not wordy.
    4. Appropriate size: Major products: more space. Simple, inexpensive products: less space.

  2. Literate, publishable English:
    1. Overall structure
      1. Introductory paragraph with thesis sentence.
      2. Concluding summary paragraph or sentence
      3. Logical order, flow of thought throughout the review. Good paragraphing generally one: subject per paragraph and an identifiable topic sentence.
    2. Clear and correct parts:
      1. Prefer short, clear, sentences. Avoid the passive voice (the past participle after the verb to be e.g. "was written by X" vs. "he wrote") unless it is shorter or necessary.
      2. Correct, minimal punctuation.
      3. Correct grammar.
      4. Use a spell checker.
    3. Avoid repeating the program's name frequently unless absolutely necessary for clarity.

  3. Spelling conventions: KB, MB, MHz, BBS, CAD, CAM, CGA, EGA, VGA, SVGA, USB, CPU, DTP or desk top publishing (no space or hyphen), DOS, IBM, LACS, LAN, OS/2, PC, PCs (for personal computer(s)), RAM, ROM, SIG, SysOp, v. (for version number), etc. Otherwise, use the first spelling in latest Webster's New World Dictionary or Associated Press' Stylebook.

    1. Capitalize program titles using the company's capitalization, punctuation and spacing.

      1. At the end of the review, list: the company's name, address and telephone numbers for sales and tech support and the list and approximate street prices for the product in whole dollars.

        1. Put your e-mail address, next to the byline in case the editors or readers have questions. Your e-mail address will be published in the eJournal.

          II Content

          1. The reviewer's personal reaction to product:
            1. Not a rewrite of sales literature or manual.
            2. Not plagiarized (published or unpublished) review.

          2. Avoid detailed how to's, long arid lists of features (anyone can read the box) and repeating common knowledge.

            1. Optional
              1. What logical questions arise?
              2. What are the global issues?

            2. Include in each software review:
              1. The product's name and version number.
              2. Hardware and software requirements be accurate, concise:
                1. 386 or 486 or Pentium? Speed? How much RAM?
                2. Other relevant hardware.
                3. Run on a LAN?
                4. Windows versions?
                5. Linked to other software?
              3. Relevant aspects of your computer system.

            3. Installation (not step by step how to)
              1. Ease or difficulty.
              2. Time needed?
              3. Instruction adequacy?

            4. Operations and Features -- Summarize don't copy lists of commands.
              1. What and how well?
              2. Anything outstanding, unique?
              3. Anything doesn't work properly?
              4. Is something you consider important missing?

            5. Documentation and Ease of Learning
              1. Adequate menus?
              2. On line (context sensitive?) help?
              3. Written documentation (manual, tutorial, template, quick reference card)
              4. Can you easily find answers when you need them?
              5. Indexed?
              6. Clearly written?
              7. Too long or short?
              8. Accurate?
              9. How long did it take to learn to operate the program?

            6. Technical Support
              1. Toll free?
              2. Can you get through? Promptly?
              3. Knowledgeable, friendly and helpful?
              4. Bug fixes available? How quickly? Cost?
              5. How much free support (life of product or limited time)?
              6. Is the cost of subsequent support reasonable?

            Use your own judgment about what else to include (e.g. your experience with other products or other versions of the product). The editors can always cut your review if it's too long; they can't know much that you don't include in the first place.


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