Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 5 W’s and H of a Product Review

Recently, I had the opportunity to write a product review. I was contacted by a friend of a lady who had created a new device for parents and she was looking for reviewers. Being a parent, and curious to see if this new item would be easy for a disabled parent to use, I agreed to it. Sometime after I received this product, I held a review session for it, took numerous photographs, then wrote up a review. After I took my review through revisions, I submitted it, only to realize later that I left out one important piece of information.

When thinking about this information, I realized it was just one ingredient in the “5 W’s and H” that journalists use when writing their story: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. And, as my journalism instructor added to this combination, S, for Source.

In this case, I left out the “where.”

With this in mind, I decided I should write up this information and use it for future reference, just in case I am once again approached to review some product or another. Currently, I review books, but obviously I am open to reviewing other items.

What is it? What is this item I am reviewing? The reader cannot see it, hold it, or feel it. So I need to explain what exactly it is.

How does it work? The reviewer is the reader’s eyes, ears and hands (and, in some cases, even their taster). Show the reader how a product is used and how it can be helpful or entertaining. Explain every step of using this product (in my case, how to set it up), and how the reader can use it.

Who made it? What is the name of the person who created this product? If it is a movie, who is in it? Who directed it? Give some background on this person and their motivation for creating this product.

When was it made and when will it be available? If the item is brand new, be sure to indicate as much. If it’s been around for a while but not widely available, include this information, as well, and, if possible, why it was not available until now.

Why should I buy it? This is the one question many readers of reviews have in the front of their minds. Why should they buy this product? Why is it important to tell them about it? Why should they even care?

Where can I buy it? If it’s available through retail stores, online stores such as Amazon.com, and through grocery outlets, be sure to let readers know. Indicate if this is something they will need to special order at a store. If the product is sold exclusively through a Web site, include the full URL. Additionally, try to include snail mail contact info for the product’s creator, just in case someone reading the review is unable to order directly from the creator’s Web site. (Keep in mind that there are still A LOT of people out there who are A: Too nervous to buy products online. And B: Don’t have a computer, Internet connection or PayPal account to shop online with.)

When you write a review, you want to tell your readers about this amazing product you are writing about (whether it’s a book, video, or restaurant dish), but it’s important to cover all the bases. Using the 5 W’s and H in newspaper writing can ensure that everything a reader needs to know about a product is in that review. The next time I write a product review, I’ll be sure to use them just so I won’t have to send my editor two different drafts of a review.

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