How to write a 5-star review

Want to give helpful feedback?

Follow these four simple steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the prompt.
  2. Read through the published piece, absorbing the writing and gaining a big-picture sense of what the author is up to.
  3. Answer the peer review questions.
  4. Read the piece one more time, highlighting and commenting on any passages that speak to you, make you want to know more, or leave you feeling confused.

Peer reviewing is a skill, just like writing.

When giving feedback, imagine the writer sitting right beside you. What would you tell them about their work and what language would you use?

  • Frame your comments positively and conversationally. “Try adding more descriptive words to help set the scene” is far clearer (and more palatable!) than “Not descriptive.”

  • Let the writer know what’s working. Even though the strengths of a piece can seem obvious, the writer often doesn’t know what’s working unless the reader tells them. Be sure to comment on the strongest writing and where the piece most speaks to you!

  • Offer constructive feedback as a suggestion rather than a statement. Honor the writer and their work. Rather than saying, “Make this hook more interesting,” try a question: “What would happen if you added more detail to this opening paragraph so that the reader feels like they’re in the scene?”

  • Do a final check for balance and tone. Read back through your review before sharing it, checking that you’ve stuck a good balance of positive and constructive feedback, and that your tone is friendly and encouraging. Remember that the writer has entrusted you with their work. Before posting your review, reread your comments to your fellow writer and ask yourself honestly, “Would I like to receive this feedback on my work?”

When receiving a review...

Most writers are eager for readers, but taking feedback in stride can be easier said than done. When receiving a review, remember to:

  • Keep an open mind. It is easy to think of feedback as an attack on your work. Remember that most comments are well-intentioned and geared towards helping you improve the quality of your writing.

  • Make your own judgments. You do not have to agree with every comment, and sometimes you will be given contradictory feedback. Trust your own instincts as you decide on the direction of your writing.

  • Have patience with poor or negative feedback. Remember that your peer reviewers are still developing their review skills. Try to identify what aspect of the feedback is unhelpful, and use it as a learning exercise in making your own reviewing stronger.

  • Thank your reviewers. A careful read and review takes time, and is one of the most valuable gifts we can give each other as fellow writers. Make sure to express your appreciation.

And don’t forget to add a “Message to Readers” to your piece of writing, letting the Write the World community know what kind of feedback you’re looking for.