What I leave out of reviews

I’m a professional writer by background, and I’ve learned over the years that writing anything is an exercise in choosing not just what to say, but what to leave out.

When I write a review, I tend to approach it by focusing on the experience of examining the pen for the first time: what it’s like to look at, to hold, to fill, to write with (generally in that order).

I take lots of macro photos of the pen’s details, and I describe the features that delight and annoy me the most. I talk about what the pen means to me, how it makes me feel, and why I bought it.

I have a lot to say, but I try to keep my reviews quite short: about 700–800 words.

All of this means I leave a lot out of my reviews. Stuff like:

  • Size comparison photos (which I figure are only helpful if I’m very careful and consistent with my photography, and have the same pens as you to compare against!)
  • Writing samples with different inks on different papers (I hate my handwriting, so I want it on display as little as possible)
  • Detailed specs (I figure you can get these from the manufacturer generally; stuff like measuring ink capacity or weighing on kitchen scales I usually can’t be bothered with)
  • Lots of information about pricing, availability and where to buy (I figure this will vary too much and is unhelpful for the 75% of my readers outside of the UK)
  • Links to other reviews (Google does a better job than me)
  • History of the brand and model (I’m not really interested in this stuff)
  • Alternatives and competitors (I don’t have a good reason not to do this…)
  • A numerical score (although I have dabbled with this)
  • A consistent checklist of features to enable comparison (does it post, how does it fill, how does it cap
  • Anything involving video (I very rarely watch video reviews, so I have no interest in making them).

What do you look for from a review? Is there anything you want me to cover in my reviews in the future? Are you happy with what I choose to include and leave out? Let me know in the comments.

10 thoughts on “What I leave out of reviews

  1. I don’t really miss any of what you’ve listed and like you’re general format for reviews. Since reviews are so subjective anyway it’s good for people to do them naturally and focus on what they feel’s important for them. If everyone just cover the same info it would become kinda robotic.

    The one bit of info that’s commonly ignored that I like to know is section diameter, but Goulet pens is brilliant for this and all other tech specs. Always baffles me when some thing list a pen’s dimensions but the only length they include is the capped one which is the least relevant I’d have thought.

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    • Thanks for the feedback, Martin! I agree that capped length is the most pointless dimension :). Section diameter is most critical to me, too, but the hardest to measure meaningfully given all the many possible section shapes and grips. I try to describe the section and how the pen is to hold. A bit of a compromise!

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  2. I quite like comparison photos. I appreciate what you say about not everyone having the same pens, but for whatever reason I struggle to visualise a pen’s vital statistics when they’re quoted as a list of numbers. A photo line-up is quite a handy way of gauging the relative dimensions of a pen.

    On the capped length – who ever thought that was a useful figure?

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    • Yeah, I’m with you — I use comparison photos all the time (today I hunted one down for an ST Dupont)… maybe it’s just that I lack the discipline or the kit to do them well. Taking decent photos for my posts takes me longer than the writing already, so getting a lineup of comparison photos done too feels like a step too far for me I guess :-/

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      • I guess picking one well known pen (maybe your Lamy 2000?) and using it as the comparator might work? After all, it’s about average (not too big, not too small, not too wide, not too narrow) so gives a good sense of scale…

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      • Maybe pick a single pen as the comparator and use it for every review you do? I’d hazard a guess that the Lamy 2000 is the Goldilocks pen – not too long/short/wide/narrow – but you know, subjectivity etc.

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  3. In fairness, capped length is pretty handy to know if a pen will fit in a shirt pocket, pen sleeve, case, bag, etc.

    That’s pen-as-product rather than pen-as-writing-tool, obviously.

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  4. You do very good reviews. I think they are honest, thorough, and thoughtful.
    If most readers are like me, the bottom line of my interest comes down to- is this a pen I want to own? One statistic that is hard to convey and has limited or no info from many mfrs is the length and shape/diameter of the grip, between the back of nib and the barrel’s threads or stepped shoulder. That is a pretty important feature and one that you discuss in every review I’ve read. Showing the pen in your hand is very helpful, though I don’t know how big your hand is compared to mine, and my finger position (also lefty) is a little bit different. If you were inclined to show the featured pen alongside a ruler, nib point at zero, along with one or two other pens as comparison, that would provide a universal measurement (mm or inch) I can see and compare with the pens I own. You called out the generally short grip typical on Pelikan pens several blogs ago and I found that a very useful observation.

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