(Module 9) TONE AND VOICE … How do you find it?


Inspired by Chris Null’s Work

Tone (or voice) is really defined as a particular style or approach to writing (or delivering) your reviews. You may find that showing humor, providing trivia, presenting the story question to your audience, or offering quotes from characters are the very things that make you feel comfortable when you write reviews. Using items like these may also provide you with a way to break through writer’s block many have when beginning and introduction.  Maybe those stylistic items can also offer you a launching pad for a unique structure in your critique. Discover your style; discover your individual voice and your trademark – and perfect it. Be consistent in style (from review to review), and your audience will grow to appreciate that about you.


Acquiring a consistency (and understanding of audience expectations) throughout an individual review is incredibly important as well. If you tease the audience in your introduction that “this film is fun for the entire family,” then offer a poor rating at the end and note it is “R” rated … then something gets lost in that translation, and you leave your audience confused.

Your language and techniques of writing should also reflect that of your audience. You would not offer the same kind of review for a PBS-Kid’s Hour audience as you would for the Sundance Film Channel audience.


If you can find a way to match your voice/style with a tone that best fits your audience, you may discover an amazing balance that offers you future opportunities in film criticism.


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Barsam, R. M., & Monahan, D. (2010). Looking at movies: An introduction to film (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Buckland, W. (2010). Understand film studies. Blacklick, OH: McGraw-Hill.

Cateridge, J. (2015). Film studies for dummies. West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley.

Glatzer, R. (2001). Beyond popcorn: A critic’s guide to looking at films. Spokane, WA: Eastern Washington University Press.

Manning, N. T. (2019, October 4). Understanding the Critic [pdf].

Manning, N. T. (2013, November 9). Adam Long. On Long on film [Personal interview]. Boiling Springs, NC: WGWG.

Manning, N. T. (2016, September 19). Jay Forry. Reviewing Blind [Personal interview]. Boiling Springs, NC: WGWG.

Manning, N. T. (2016, June 7). Lawrence Toppman. Observing Film [Personal interview]. Boiling Springs, NC: WGWG.

Manning, N. T. (2015, November 19). Sean O’Connell. Gotta love movies [Personal interview]. Boiling Springs, NC: WGWG.

Manning, N. T. (2016, August 16). Matt Brunson. Getting creative [Personal interview]. Boiling Springs, NC: WGWG.

Null, C. (2005). Five stars!: How to become a film critic, the world’s greatest job. San Francisco, CA: Sutro Press.

Quiray, G. C. (2014). Under the tent-pole: A primer on moviesblockbusters, oscar winners, alternatives, and you. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.


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