Ruby’s Tips for Newbies: How to Look Like a Pro When You Blog About TV Shows

Television series and movies are a popular writing topic for bloggers. You can review the latest Hollywood movie release or write a recap for the most recent episode of your favourite network TV show. There are always exciting themes to write about, whether it be the high emotions and expectation of the reality shows or the suspense and intrigue of a crime series like Quantico. And of course, you can speculate about an upcoming series, like the show that Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore are currently pitching to cable networks and TV streaming websites like Netflix and Hulu.

But how you format your entertainment blog post is just as important as what you say about the characters and the action. Do you know how to get the best results when you write about your favourite movie or TV show?

How to Format the Name of a Movie or TV Show

Whether you are writing an episode recap or a movie review, some principles always stay the same. One is that you should use italics when you state the name of any long work. That’s any movie title, the name of a television show, or even the name of a novel or an album by your favourite rock band. Quotation marks denote a shorter work. Save them for chapter titles, episode names, song names, and so on. These are the shorter pieces that make up the larger work.

So in my example of Quantico, I use italics when I name the series itself. But if I were writing a post about the season finale, “Yes,” I would put the episode title in quotation marks.

The same holds true of movie titles, whether you’re blogging about the recently released Jason Bourne or the upcoming remake of Ben Hur. Always put the title in italics. This helps it stand out from the rest of your text and tells your reader that it’s an important piece of information.

Blogging About the Setting and the Plot

When you blog about the action in a television series or a film, you should always use the present tense to describe the scene. This is the standard convention, and the reason for it is that you want your reader to feel he’s part of the action. Reading a description in the present tense makes it easier to go along for the ride because it seems the action is happening right now.

When I write about a TV show like Quantico, I want to say that the show takes place in the present day at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia and in other locations where the recruits are taken for training exercises. Notice that in both cases, I used a present tense verb – once the simple present tense, and in the other instance the present progressive tense. I always want to speak about the series and its characters as if everything about them is happening now, as I’m writing.

The main exception to the present-tense rule is for first person commentary in which you are speaking about yourself. A good example of how this works can be seen in these lines from a review of Jason Bourne that appears on the Roger Ebert movie website. “Being a fan of both of those movies, I too had high hopes for a return to form for the character who shares a monogram with 007,” says reviewer Brian Tallerico. “But it’s mere minutes into “Jason Bourne” that something is wrong.” Notice the shift from past tense (when Tellerico is speaking of himself) to present tense in the next sentence that refers to the film itself? I don’t care for Tellerico’s use of quotation marks instead of the standard italics, which were used in most other reviews for the film. But he does get his tenses right.

Blogging About TV Show Characters and Actors

TV and movies are highly visual media, but they mostly show us images and not text. So it’s really easy to get the spelling of a character’s name wrong. And even when it comes to writing about famous actors, sometimes we might be off by just a letter. So it’s a good idea to check the exact names and spellings with a website like Wikipedia, IMDB, or Rotten Tomatoes. All of these sites offer you a cast list that gives the correct names of each character and the actor who plays the character.

Sure, search engines will probably include your review even if you’ve spelled a name wrong. And readers will probably know who you’re talking about anyway. But why would you want to dilute your authority by getting something as small as a name wrong? Will readers believe you’re an expert on your fave reality show or comedy series if you can’t even get a tiny detail like that right? Why take the chance? It just takes a few seconds to check, and you can copy and paste a correctly spelled character name, right into your blog post as you’re writing it.

Stick to Actors’ Last Names

Another thing you want to be careful of when writing about the people involved in television and movies is not to sound too casual or familiar when you mention their names. A first mention should probably be the full name, especially of the actor. And I’m sure all of you are familiar with the convention for giving the actor’s name after the first mention of a character. So if I were writing about the latest movie in the Bourne franchise, I would introduce the protagonist as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon.)

When you refer to the character later, the general convention is to mention him by his last name. So I would speak of Bourne, and not call him Jason. This may seem like a very picky detail, but characters in movies and books are often better known by their last names. If I just say “Jason” to you, it’s more likely to conjure up visions of a mass murderer in a goalie mask than of a former CIA assassin who is now on the run from a killing squad, right?

The same thing goes for actor names. It’s best to just call the actor by his surname. I’d refer to Damon in a review of Jason Bourne because “Matt” could be Matt Damon, Matt Dillon, or any of a handful of other actors whose first name is Matt or Matthew.

Again, maybe it seems like a picky detail to insist on using an actor’s surname and not his given name. But anything you can do to boost your SEO and to increase reader recognition of who you’re talking about will help give you better results for your post. Using the recognized convention also shows that you know what your reader expects from a movie review. By the same token, breaking from the convention will stand out and it can make you seem inexperienced – as if you don’t know what you’re doing or maybe that you aren’t showing proper respect for a famous actor whom you’ve never met. That can be a turn-off for the reader.

These rules of thumb for writing movie reviews and blog posts about popular TV series will help to ensure that readers see you as an authority, which will add weight to your opinions about the show or the film in question. They’re very subtle things, so it’s the not doing that will stand out more and cause readers to doubt your expertise in all things entertainment. Follow the established writing conventions, read professional reviews and television episode recaps to get a feel for what’s expected, and you too can write entertainment news like a pro! Remember all of these conventions apply equally to writing about a novel you’ve read or about the latest CD release from your favourite band.


How to write a movie review | Blogging about movies & TV shows is kicked up a notch when you use familiar conventions your audience expects

When blogging about movies and TV series, follow the accepted writing conventions to look like a pro
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    1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      Some people follow a specific series because they really enjoy it, and they do a weekly recap. I think it’s more fun for some who like reality shows because there’s more to discuss than just the straight plot. I have one writing friend who wrote about Dancing With the Stars each week, and she loved doing it! Personally, I prefer to review the TV series as a whole, rather than to keep up with it weekly. Like you, I get bored of writing on the same topic week after week…

      Thanks for the Stumble!

  1. Profile photo of Deb Jones
    Deb Jones

    These are all great tips. I’ve read reviews where the writer/blogger used first names of the actors, giving me a feeling of too much familiarity in doing so. You’re right, so many of these issues are small things, but success is in the details.

    1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I think it comes off either as a form of name-dropping (see, I know this important person) or as disrespect to call an actor by his given name. Decades ago, I met the personal assistant of Sydney Poitier when he was in Montreal to film a movie. Even someone who worked closely with him every day called him “Mr Poitier” – and she made it clear that she felt addressing him any other way was completely out of line!

      There are times when a character can – and probably should – be referred to by the first name. If I were writing about the Hunger Games, for example, I’d talk about Katniss and not “Everdeen.” But I’d use “Snow” when referring to the president of Panem. It depends heavily on how the character is spoken about in a movie or TV show. And sometimes too, it depends on how other people refer to the character in conversation or writing. We want to be sure our readers know who we’re talking about, after all!

  2. Profile photo of Treathyl FOX
    Treathyl FOX

    So are these unbreakable rules that must be followed if I submit a post at this site? Or are these just tips based on your experience writing reviews? Because when I talk or discuss or “blog” about movies or TV shows, I’m not really trying to be an “authority”. It’s more like the casual conversations you have with others when you’re talking about something you watched that you really liked. I’m thinking if I enjoyed it, you might enjoy it too! So my approach the recommendation or review is very casual as opposed to say being like a “Siskel and Ebert” critic. Do you understand the question I’m asking??

    1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      @cmoneyspinner You can definitely write a more casual discussion, Treathyl. It’s not necessary to make it a formal review. That being said, it does help to spell the names of actors or characters right, LOL! And it doesn’t hurt to use italics for the name of a movie or series. That helps your reader pick out the title more easily in the body of your post, and search engines may even give it more weight too.

    2. Profile photo of Treathyl FOX
      Treathyl FOX

      @ruby3881 – LOL. Yeah spelling names correctly does help. I was at another site and one of the people making comments got upset because the celebrity’s name was misspelled. People are touchy about that. LOL.

      OK! Thanks for these tips. They are good guidelines. But it’s also good to know I can express my enthusiasm about a movie or TV show that I liked freely, as well! Super post!! 🙂

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