Guidelines and Principles: Book Reviewers

Many thanks for your willingness to write a book review for Early Theatre. The following guidelines are designed to help you to write your review and prepare it for submission. 

Deadlines: Deadlines are agreed upon between the book review author and the book reviews editor at the time the review is commissioned. Delays to agreed-upon timelines can cause significant problems because editors plan journal issues with a certain number of reviews in mind. Please stick to the agreed deadline if at all possible. If problems arise in relation to deadlines, let the book reviews editor know as far in advance as possible.

Overall length: Book reviews for Early Theatre should be approximately 1,000-1,500 words in length. If you feel that you need more words to provide adequate discussion of your chosen book, please check with the book reviews editor in advance of completing your review.

Principles for Reviewing (special thanks to Peter Kirwan for initiating our development of these guidelines):

  1. The emphasis of a book review should be on what the book does, rather than on what it doesn’t do. This does not mean that reviewers may not remark on omissions or unexplored questions, but such points should not come at the expense of engagement with what the author has done.
  2. The emphasis of the review should be on the book at hand. Book reviews are not the place for reviewers to disseminate their own work.
  3. The review should give a fair account of the content of the book. By the end of the review, readers should have a reasonable sense of what the book is about and of the extent of the book’s contribution to the field.
  4. Emphasis should be on the book rather than its author. The reviewer may take issues with things said within the book, but criticism should focus on what is in evidence in the book and should never be ad hominem.
  5. The language of a review should be respectful, courteous, and professional. In addition to not platforming remarks that are sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc., this principle extends to values of not ‘punching down’ at junior or precariously employed scholars.
  6. The review should show evidence for claims about the book’s content and position, ideally through quotation and page reference.
  7. The review should describe and assess the book on its own terms and in relation to its intended audience. All reviewers should be critically self-aware enough to understand that their own values may not be universal.
  8. The review must be constructive rather than destructive. Remember that a book review is not identical to a peer review: it is public and appears after the author has finished the project and cannot make corrections. If the reviewer discerns a significant issue with the book, however, they can point this out and productively suggest ways to fill gaps or address shortcomings in future projects.
  9. Reviews should be accessible to lay readers. Methodologies and common terminologies vary within the field. Reviewers should keep this diversity of their own target audience in mind. Strategies for including a variety of readers may include: translation of foreign/classical phrases, explication of technical language, etc.
  10. All reviews will be sent directly to the book’s author upon publication. Reviews should be written in knowledge of this practice.

Models: Because all issues of Early Theatre become open access one year after publication, reviewers can easily examine past reviews of monographs, essay collections, reference works, and critical editions. Book review authors are welcome to ask the book reviews editor to recommend specific published reviews that might be particularly helpful models for the type of book they are reviewing.


  1. All reviews should follow the general instructions for contributors to Early Theatre as outlined in our Style Sheet. Please note that book reviews, like other content in Early Theatre, need to cite DOIs where available. For guidelines on how to check whether a DOI exists for a source you are citing, please see our Style Sheet Supplement on DOIs.
  2. Please head your review with full publication information for the book in question, double-spaced and in bold and formatted as follows:
    Name of Author or Editor [First name Last name]. Title [in italics]. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Pp # of pages. Format, price [as listed on publisher website in that country's currency]. ISBN [13 digits, no spaces]. DOI.
    • Tison Pugh. On the Queerness of Early English Drama: Sex in the Subjunctive. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021. Pp 241. Hardback $65 CAD. ISBN: 9781487508746.
    • Carol Mejia LaPerle, ed. Race and Affect in Early Modern English Literature. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Press, 2022. Pp 221. Hardback $29.95 USD. ISBN: 9780866986922. Paperback $19.95 USD. ISBN: 9780866986588. Open Access.
    • Ralph Berry, ed. The Methuen Book of Shakespeare Anecdotes, new edition. London: Routledge, 2016. Pp 205. Paperback £27.99. ISBN: 9781138659599.
  3. After this header, please indicate your name as you wish it to appear in the review, and your institutional affiliation (if relevant) on the line below this. 
  4. Double-space all sections of your review and use Times New Roman 12-point font.
  5. When listing page numbers, use the fewest numbers possible: 140-1 is preferable to 140-141 or 140-41.
  6. Avoid using the passive voice.
  7. Avoid beginning sentences with ‘It is…’ and when possible, also avoid beginning sentences with adverbial connectives such as ‘However’, ‘Nevertheless’, ‘Moreover’, etc.
  8. Please eliminate all unnecessary commas.  

Submission: Please email your completed review to the book reviews editor, who will work with you during an initial copyediting stage. Once this stage is complete, the book reviews editor will send you directions for uploading your review to the Early Theatre website. 

Checklist for Submitting to the Journal Website: As part of the submission process, book review authors will be required to testify to their submission's compliance with the following statements.

  1. I have filled out the optional author survey designed to support contributors during the submission, review, and production stages, or do not need to complete it. [For a preview of the survey questions, click here.]
    2. I have removed all information about my identity (and the identify of co-authors, if relevant) from the submission's content, or in the case of book reviews, this information does not need to be removed.
    3. I have removed information about my identity (and that of co-authors, if relevant) from the submission's file properties, or in the case of book reviews, the information does not need to be removed.
    4. I have included my ORCID iD (and those of co-authors, if relevant) in the 'Public' tab for the submission. (If authors do not already have an ORCID iD, they may register for free here. The process is almost instantaneous.)
    5. If my submission is an article, note, or Issues in Review essay, I have included an abstract of 100 words maximum. If my submission is a book review or review essay, I have included a one-sentence abstract (eg. 'This review considers Y [title of the book you are reviewing]' or 'This review essay discusses X [general topic]').
    6. My submission uses Canadian spelling, favouring 'ize' over 'ise', as is usually the case in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Please check that dictionary if in doubt.)
    7. My submission uses end-notes (or in the case of certain book reviews, no notes are usually included). Please refer to our Style Sheetfor examples. End-notes cite Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) where available. 
    8. If my submission includes transcriptions from manuscripts, these transcriptions follow REED guidelines. Please consult our Paleography Guide.
    9. I have submitted any charts/illustrations as separate files. Within the text, phrases such as 'See figure 1' direct readers to the correct illustrative material.
    10. I (and if relevant, my co-authors) agree to obtain necessary permissions for all image reproductions prior to publication.
    11. I (and my co-authors if relevant) attest and warrant that:
    (a) the submission has not been previously published, nor is it before another journal for consideration;
    (b) the submission does not contain any libel or unlawful statements or defamatory material or content, and does not infringe any existing third party copyright, moral right, or other intellectual property rights;
    (c) the submission is not in violation of any rights of privacy or any other rights of third persons; and
    (d) the submission is the original work of the author.
    The author agrees to hold harmless Early Theatre's editorial team, McMaster University, Board of Governors, officers, agents, employees, students, agents, licensees, volunteers, and subcontractors, from any claim, action, or proceeding alleging facts that constitute a breach of any warranty enumerated in this paragraph.

Copyright: All contributors to Early Theatre retain copyright for their work. We require all published authors to grant a limited exclusive license for publication to the journal, according to which authors agree not publish their submissions elsewhere in the same form, in any language, without the consent of the journal for a period of one year, and without acknowledgment of its initial publication in the journal thereafter. Authors are encouraged to archive the work on their own not-for-profit site and/or that of their institution.