The Fine Art of Writing a Yelp Review

Be fair, concise, and embrace the fact that that no one will truly care.

A person types on a laptop
Photo: Kirill Smyslov / Getty Images

There is a right way and a wrong way to craft a Yelp review for a restaurant, but no matter how it's written, it will never earn you a Pulitzer Prize, nor is it something to add to a LinkedIn profile. Maybe if you eventually writes enough reviews, Yelp will bestow the title of Elite Yelper upon you, which is right up there with being knighted by the Queen of England. However, it's more likely that the review will languish in the ether, peaking when one person clicks the icon beneath your review because they find it useful, funny, or cool. If you should choose to use your precious moments on earth to write a review for Yelp, here is how it should be done.

Make it concise.

If it takes longer to write the review than it took for you to eat the meal you're writing about, you're doing it wrong. These aren't dissertations on philosophy; they are opinions about mashed potatoes. All of your flowery alliteration is for naught when most people just want to know if the restaurant has four or five stars (good) or one or two stars (bad). Save the prose for your blog and provide just the facts.

Use good grammar.

If you want to be seen as an authority on the subject, put some effort into it. This isn't a quick text to your bestie, it's a public forum for the world wide web to know your feelings on how perfectly or imperfectly cooked the wild salmon was. Even though a teacher isn't going to send it back to you with corrections (their / there / they're) and a big D- at the top of it, it's going to be judged by internet users, and they are way tougher to please than your eighth grade English teacher Mrs. Schaffner ever was.

Be fair.

If you're going to write a review about a bad experience, then make sure to write one for a good experience too. When someone sees your one-star review and then looks at your profile to see that every other review you have written is also about how bad a restaurant was they're going to reach a conclusion that the one common denominator in all of those awful restaurant experiences was you. Your Yelp anthology needs to be well-rounded with both good and bad reviews so you seem like a fair and sensible human being.

Don't use names.

It isn't necessary to specifically mention someone, especially if it's for a negative reason. Calling out your server by name is petty, pointless, and picayune. It doesn't help anyone to know the name of the waitress who you feel didn't feel smile enough, and there's never a need to mention their body size or the style of their hair. If you have a distinct issue with a person at the restaurant, be an adult and tell someone about it rather than blasting your opinion about them online. Besides that, some restaurants will blatantly fire someone who gets a negative comment in an online review regardless of whether it's true or not. Want to praise someone? That's better, but don't forget that some people try really hard to keep their name off the internet, so don't ruin it for them.

Don't say: "If I could give zero stars I would."

Yelp gives you five choices to rate the restaurant and zero stars isn't one of them. No amount of excess verbiage is going to change that. The CEO of Yelp isn't going to read your review and think, "You know what? Connie in Cincinnati disliked her chicken parmesan, so let's change our whole entire system so everyone knows how much she really, really hated it." If your chicken parmesan let you down faster than a broken escalator, one star is as low as you can go. If you really want to stick it to the restaurant, just don't ever go back.

Know that nobody will truly care about your review.

If you're desperate for some eyeballs on your literary opus, make it a one-star review because that's what people are most likely to read. When someone is scanning the reviews of a restaurant, they will filter the reviews one of two ways: either the ones most recently written or the ones with the lowest rating. Most recent will tell them what it was like in the last few weeks, but lowest will give them an indication of the worst it could possibly be. People might peruse the five-star reviews, but one-star Yelp reviews are like a train wreck; you don't want to look, but you just can't help it. No one ever in the history of Yelp has read or will read a three-star review, because who cares that you had an average time?

If you want to write Yelp reviews, by all means, please do. That's what it's there for and if people didn't contribute to the website, it would become obsolete, doing absolutely nothing for anyone and no one wants that to happen. Right? After you have a few reviews under your belt, don't let it go to your head. Literally anyone with an email address is allowed to write them. And whatever you do, don't ever threaten a restaurant with the possibility of a bad review. Sitting down at your table and announcing that you're a Yelper does nothing except provide ocular calisthenics for the server whose eyeballs will roll so far back into their head they'll need an Advil to reduce the pain. Happy writing!

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