Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thinking about the Structure of the Restaurant Review

Chronological method is effective in that it’s easy for the reader to follow, but it always seems a little amateurish, at least to me. One of the disadvantages in the method is that it encourages clutter – “and then the hostesss showed us to our table.” That is, you fall into storytelling mode and include bits that really don’t tell useful information about the restaurant. Better reviewers usually focus on the points they want to make and don’t present them chronologically because that can waste valuable space and fog the emphasis of the review.

Of course, once chronological order is abandoned, it can result in an “elusive” structure. That is, we aren’t quite sure why the information is presented in the order it’s presented. Some reviews do seem to be exercises in “nut graf” structure. There’s the lead that grabs us by the nose, and then comes the nut graf making one key point or several key points, which are developed in the order presented in the nut graf. And some reviews do have the feel of the old inverted pyramid structure, as if the points of criticism were presented in order of descending importance. And in other instances, the structure seems purely associational, which does give such reviews a kind of casual, conversational quality.

Bottom line: Understand what sort of structure you are using or – having “jumped into” the writing and having, without planning, come up with a structure that works – be able to explain why you think it works.

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