The Expert and the Lay Person
While the words critique and review are often used interchangeably to describe someone’s view or judgment on another’s works whether it is music, film, literature, or art. There is a difference between the two words other than merely their relative definitions and spelling. The difference between critique and review mainly rests on the person writing it. Critiques are written by experts in the field which has been written about and is referred to as a critic (Toledo 2010). While a review is written is written by a person who is interested, but not necessary an expert, in the field and is called a reviewer (Hasa 2016).
It is this difference in the levels of knowledge of the person, either critic or reviewer, that results in many of the differences between critiques and reviews in terms of audience, approach, style, and purpose of both the critique and review. For all the self-declared “critics” on YouTube whose sole purpose it is to bemoan a band’s latest album or a comic book adaption that missed the point, this distinction should be important and hopefully informative to aid in prevented a devolution into a troll.
As was mentioned above critiques are written by experts in the relative field relevant whether that be literature, philosophy, film, music, or whichever field the expert has dedicated years to studying. Critiques are meant to be as objective as humanly possible, this is as a result of the critiques audience be they students or experts in the relevant field of study. In order to be objective the critic must form their opinion as to be “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased” (Dictionary.com 2017).
As a result of critiques been intended to be read by those of a similar knowledge level often the critic goes into great detail into the finer aspects of the subject been discussed. This also means that the language used by the critic will use jargon and technical language that would not easily be understood by a lay person. In fact, the lay person, a person without specialized knowledge in a particular field (Dictionary 2017), would find reading a critique a difficult task. For instance, if you have had no exposure to philosophy as a subject an in-depth critique Kant’s categorical imperative would be similar to reading something in a foreign language.
Due to the high level of knowledge generally on display and the intended audience been other experts or those studying to become experts, in academic discussions critiques are seen as more reliable than reviews. This is also due partly to various forms of critique have strict rules as to content, style, and referencing that need to be adhered to if the critic would like his work published. Academic study often has objectivity as an ideal standard which to is followed, likewise, this is also an ideal the critic should adopt. When critiquing somebody else’s work attacking or mocking a person in their personal capacity is often seen as bad form. Although history is littered with experts allowing professional jealousy to cloud their critique of another’s work.
Reviews, unlike critiques, do need to be written by experts and are generally written by people with an interest in the field. Reviews are the personal opinion of the reviewer. Thus, they are considered subjective, or put differently “pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual” (Dictionary.com 2017). Reviews do include an analysis, descriptions, and evaluates the work as a critique would do. It does not go into a deep or technical analysis of the work (Hasa 2017). As reviews express a personal opinion they are not seen as been reliable for academic purposes. This is in part due to their inherent subjectivity and unlike critiques, publishing requirements are less strict.
Since anyone can write a review that expresses their opinion on whether they found the work either good or bad, reviews are often rather consumer orientated. Information about the book, movie, game, or product is given followed by the reviewer determining whether they thought it was good or bad. The reader of the review may find the information helpful or disagree with it completely. In the age of the internet, this has led to heated arguments on message boards about the most unimportant, trivial, and very often silly matters. These arguments would often be confined to friends after watching a movie, now with the internet, you can make your opinion heard too much wider audience whether they like it or not.
Despite this and a review in a subjective opinion, the reviewer can adhere to certain loose requirements to ensure that the review adheres to commonly held best practices. These best practices cannot be regarded as set in stone but their intention is to prevent the review from becoming closer to abuse on a personal level. Although the review is subjective the reviewer should always try to be as fair as possible and be aware of their own biases and prejudices (Fields 2015). Michael Klingensmith put forward the following to assist in writing a great review:
“1. Open with an introduction paragraph that does the following things:
- catches the reader’s attention;
- identifies the thing you’ll be reviewing (e.g., the title of the book or movie);
- identifies the author, star, or director, if appropriate.
- Write a full paragraph about each of the aspects you want to examine, making sure each paragraph does these things:
- opens with a topic sentence that says what the paragraph is about;
- has several detail sentences that prove the point you are trying to make;
- uses quotes or examples from the book or movie, if possible, to help prove your point.
- End with a conclusion paragraph that does the following:
- briefly restates the main ideas of the review;
- makes a judgment about the book or movie or whatever, saying whether it is good or bad (some reviewers give ratings, like four stars or two thumbs up);
- recommends that the reader go to the movie or read the book or buy a meal at the restaurant (or not, if it is no good).” (Klingensmith 2017)
The following is a summary as to the main differences between a critique and a review:
- Critiques are written by experts. Reviews are written by interested people not considered an expert.
- Critiques are considered more reliable than reviews.
- Critiques are objective while reviews are subjective.
- Critiques contain in-depth analysis that is often technical in nature. Reviews contain general information and personal opinion.
- A critique intends to analyze a work for academic purposes while a review in more consumer orientated.
- Critiques may not be understood by laypeople while reviews aim to be understood by everyone.