09/09/2014

Cutting Those Pesky Stars in Half {The Birdie Musings}


Lately my feed is exploding with reviews that feature half stars. Whether it's on Bloglovin' or Goodreads, the same thing seems to be popping up: rating a book 4.5 stars or 2.5 etc. A review when a book is not quite a 5, but not quite a 4. When it's not quite a 2, but not quite a 3. There's a struggle to decide what rating the book actually deserves . . .

 

 And so the half star is born!

You may have noticed that half stars are rare on Little Birdie. I think – remember I'm old and quite possibly senile (not really, but I need an excuse for my fish brain) – that I've only ever given one book a rating with half stars. And that was back in my early blogging days.

It's not that I'm against them PER SAY, and they don't bother me when I see them in other people's reviews. It's just, I always think a book can be rounded either up or down. 

If I'm struggling to rate a book a 3, then I think it's because it doesn't deserve a 3. So I'll give it a 2. If I'm struggling to rate a book a 5 – if I'm uhming and aahing about it – then it's probably because the book isn't a 5. So I give it a 4. Job done.

 

But I know a lot of bloggers worry about being harsh. Some people think that even though a book may not be worth a 4, rating it a 3 seems mean because it was a decent read. They don't want the guilt of rating a book lower than it may deserve.

 
And that's fine and it makes sense. I guess I just like to be a bit more concise? Especially since I also post my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, which don't offer a half star option, so the reviews get rounded up or down then anyway.

I also think it's handy that I have my rating system. The Lone Birdie (one star) is reserved for DNFs, two birdies for a book I didn't like, three for a pretty decent read, four for a great book, and five birdies (and a spot on my List of Awesome) for the most amazing books that become instant favourites. It's a pretty easy system.


But I know some folks prefer to do theirs another way. So rating a book three stars for me, might mean something completely different to someone else who rates it three stars. People define their ratings differently, which I guess is where the half star comes into play.

 
So what about you? Do you give half-star ratings? Do you tend to agree they're necessary, or do you think that reviews should always be rounded up or down? Does it bother you to see them in other blogs?



 



Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart. Stalk her on twitter, instagram or goodreads.


50 comments:

  1. I half star because I have the problem of a book not being worth the higher rating, but not being as low as the lower rating, but on Amazon and Goodreads, the reviews get rounded down and I state after my review that it's a 4.5 or a 2.5. I just find it so hard to choose, not 4 but not 3, then it's 3.5 and it's more simple for to include the .5's than what it is without, but I can understand why people find it easier to just use the normal star system, it makes sense and it's what most sites use, so I understand. Great topic Allie! :D

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    1. Yeah, I think a lot of people just can't decide which rating it deserves and so half stars offer a nice middle-ground. I think my OCD comes into play with my ratings though, so I need them to be 'solid/even' ratings and not halves. Or I might develop a twitch ;)

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  2. Star ratings really confuse me. *sigh* For me a 3-stars is "meh" while for most people it's just "good". THAT IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!! I've actually been told off by some cuckoo face on Amazon that I reviewed a book too highly for my 3-star rating. What a weirdo. I THINK I know how to rate books. (Heh, random rant there, never mind me.)

    I never ever used to use half stars. But these days? I kind of need them sometimes. Like when a book feels SO much like a 5 star but it's just....not...quite. But same as I use half stars a bit more, I also use one-stars a bit more. I feel bad for it, but some books just drive me insane and while I try to be super uber nice in my reviews (eh, I haven't been so nice this week, ignore me in your Goodreads feed, okay?!! Deal?! Deal.) I'll let the star-rating say a lot too.

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    1. EXACTLY! Star ratings are so different, depending on the person. For me, 3 stars is a decent read. Nothing special, but not bad. For others, 3 is a really positive review. And for some it's a really negative one. It's weird!

      Haha, I'm totally stalking your GR now to see you being a negative Nancy. I can foresee some harsh status updates for Hush, Hush will coming up!!

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  3. Fantastic post, Allie! Star ratings are an easy and universal way to rate books, but when you really put thought into them, they're not all that easy as everyone defines their stars differently. As you've spoken about in this post, some people include half stars, some don't. That's where things such are rating scales come in handy.

    For me, personally. I do like half stars, because sometimes I read a book because it's not quite a 5, but it's not a 4 in my eyes either. This isn't because I feel as though I'm being too harsh or whatever, it's just what makes sense and feels fair to me, personally. However, on sites such as goodreads, I round my rating, and then state the actual rating above my review. However, sometimes I can't be bothered with half stars (I know, just after I went through explaining why I like them), so I wish using non-half stars made sense to me.

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    1. I totally get why people feel the need to use them, for those books teetering on the edge between ratings. But I guess I'm a little more black and white in my stars? That sounds bad, but I like to have a solid raring in mind. You know? I feel like if my rating isn't as 'concise' then my review won't be . . . I think I'm wired weirdly!

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  4. I have half stars (but not 1.5, because that doesn't make sense to me :p), because there is a big difference between 3 - 4 to me, so I like to have the ability to rate between those. Sometimes a book is TOO good for a 3, but not good enough for a 4, so without the half star I would not know how to rate a book. The same with the difference between 2-3 en 4-5. I can understand that some people don't use half stars, but for me this works better and it makes rating easier :)

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    1. 1.5 ratings are just . . . I don't get that, because clearly the book wasn't enjoyable, so just choose 1 or 2 :P

      I think this really does come down to how people define a '3 star read' or a '4 star read'. For me, I think the way I define them makes it easy to choose one or the other, but I know some people think of them differently and so can struggle more to choose between the two.

      Half stars aren't bad at all, I just never seem to use them!

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  5. Oh yes, my husband thinks I am silly that I needed a 2 1/5 and 3 1/2 specifically made for my little rating boxes.. But those are the ones I find I need the most... I do 4.5 some but its usually easy for me to decide a 4 or 5

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    1. Oh and I hate that goodreads (and most sites) don't let me do 1/2 stars

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    2. I think so many people are a bit miffed that GR doesn't offer half-star ratings. I mean, even though I don't use them myself, it would be a handy feature because they are so popular with bloggers (more so lately).

      Plus it kind of annoys me to see a 3 star review and then see 'actual rating 2.5 stars' underneath. I'd prefer it if they could put the actual rating in their stars but, alas, Goodreads won't allow it!

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  6. I don't give half star ratings either. But that's probably because my rating system is out of 7 stars, so there's a slightly larger range of values to choose from haha. My star ratings are basically completely based on enjoyment, so a somewhat crappily written book could still get three or four stars if it entertained me enough. I also have a score out of 10 which is more about the overall writing, romance, characters etc.

    I don't mind seeing half stars on other blogs. Actually, because my rating system is so weird, I'm completely okay with whatever rating systems others want haha

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    1. Out of seven! That's an odd number to choose lol. I love reading about the different systems different bloggers use for rating – some don't even use stars at all, which is pretty cool

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  7. Ah yes the half star debate! I struggle with this as well but I do give out half stars on my blog. It is when it comes to Godoreads that I struggle the most. A book that was a 4.5 stars for me..what to do with it on Goodreads where no halves are available. That is when I usually have to think long and hard about whether it deserves that extra boost into the allusive 5 star category or whether to bump it down to a 4.
    Honestly, it is never easy deciding.

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    1. Goodreads really needs to add that feature. Even though I won't use it personally, it'll make reading reviews on there so much less misleading!

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  8. Half stars don't bother me to see, because I can usually understand where the reviewer is coming from. However, I don't really use stars to begin with so if I DO think of a book in terms of a rating, I tend to round up or down. You're right, Amazon and the like makes you round up or down anyway, so if I ever cross-post (which I should do more--but again, I don't usually rate books by stars) I have to do it anyway.

    -lauren

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    1. I think I just love being concise and summing up my experience in a rating, and I feel like, for me, half-stars just aren't consistent enough, you know? I don't mind seeing them on other blogs, but the OCD in me just couldn't bring myself to use them!

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  9. I do give half stars because I find with some books I just can't justify rounding up or down. My 5 star system means different things than yours, and I think depending on how you define each rating effects whether you can half-star or not. On GRs I state the half star rating, but can round up or down because even the meaning of the GRs ratings is different than mine. I think we need a universal system! I have seen one or two bloggers who go into .25/.5/.75 ratings, and even more variants! (If you do this, and you're reading this, I don't mean it to be insulting!). I don't understand how I could possibly keep track of this. To me half-stars mean it was middle of the road between two ratings, but to throw quarter stars in there, I don't think I could calculate it!

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    1. Definitely, different people define ratings in completely opposite ways. I know some people do the .25 thing etc. because they have lots of different categories and then they combine them all together to do an overall rating. It's a bit complex and I'd be far too lazy for it lol!

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  10. I like using half stars. For me it's just about giving a rating that's more specific for my readers (and myself, I guess). So that it's easy to tell, at a glance, what I thought about it, even more so than if I just used the normal 5-star system. I don't know, maybe that's silly and the regular system is specific enough, but I just personally like it! Sometimes I even really want to give something a .25 or .75 stars, haha. But then I make myself stop, because that's just ridiculous :P

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    1. It is definitely more specific but . . . I just can't. I'D HAVE TO CHOP A BIRDIE IN HALF. Haha, it'd be a disaster :P

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  11. I do give half stars because of the reasons you've mentioned - sometimes a book just doesn't fit in a certain whole rating. I want to be as accurate as possible so that you can really understand where I'm coming from.

    If I do rate a book with a half star, I usually round down, because that makes it stay close to the root of the number if that makes any sense.

    I think it's interesting how people have such different opinions on what a certain rating means to them; but, in the end, I think it's whatever works for you.

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. It's really interesting to me too; like if I rate a book a 3 and then I see another blogger has rated it a 3 . . . it's so weird to see how different our reviews are. Their's might be so much more positive, or so much more negative. Ratings really are subjective things1

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  12. I half star. I"m half starrer.

    But I think it's a good idea that every book blog do what you have done and define exactly what their ratings mean. I think most book blogs I follow do. But it kills me when I see a two star review and they say, "I loved it!"

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    1. Oh, God. Do people do that? That would bug me so much. I actually always make sure to check out the rating system of new blogs I follow so I can get a feel of how they do their thing. Make understanding their reviews easier

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  13. Well, ratings can get really complicated. I don't usually think about how I'm going to rate a book until I could at least write a draft of my review. Before, I don't really use half stars but nowadays, I just have to use them. Although, I do have a rating system that works for me sometimes a book just doesn't want to be a 3 star nor a 4 star read so half stars are quite necessary.

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    1. Oh, see. I think of the rating before the review and the rating helps me write the review . . . so maybe I do things backwards then? LOL

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  14. I have to half star. HAVE TO. Honestly and oddly, I think I do halves MORE than full stars. I have no idea what that is about. Basically, it usually goes like this: I think I am rating a book a four. I am convinced it is a 4. But wait. It wasn't *quite* as good as that other book that I rated a four last week. But, it was better than that book I rated a 3 the other day... so, 3.5. It's like, a fairness scale for me, but it's pretty arbitrary any way you look at it. The stars are really just a general guide anyway I guess. I am impressed that you can stick with a 5 bird system though- I'd use 100 if I could ;)

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    1. You're obviously just soooo indecisive ;)

      I get how it seems more fair really, because it's a lot more accurate and shows how the book has the potential to be more. But, as you said, the stars are just a general guide and I feel like my reviews sum up everything else, so half-stars are a bit redundant for me? You know?

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  15. I always think that 3 stars is a decent rating no matter whose blog I'm reading. And that goes for mine as well. Plus, I don't only do half stars, I do 3.6 and 4.8 and 2.1 etc since my rating comes from 4 different things: world, plot, characters and writing. I get the average and if it's above x.5 then I rate it up, if below then lower. However, if it's exactly x.5 then I decide for myself if it was actually worth more of a 3 or 4 (like what happened with Boomerang). Though I must say that sometimes the rating comes out as a more positive thing than I felt while reading and then I take the lead in the subjective field and subject away lol. (Meaning I lower some ratings to get the rating I think the book deserved.) Nothing as such has happened with rating a book too low when I thought it was good since yeah.. That can't happen lol. I'm not bothered by half stars and I think we could benefit from them if they appeared on GR, Amazon, B&N etc. I hope one day they will :)

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    1. It is! It's an average, pretty decent read. Not mind-blowing, but not bad! I only really count 1 & 2 star reviews as 'negative' ones.

      Oh, man, your rating system is too complicated for my tiny birdie brain. TRUST YOU TO BE SO AWKWARD, DUDE. Bloody typical Siiri ;)

      Definitely think they need to be a feature on GR. Isn't Ashley @ Nose Graze doing her own version of 'goodreads' soon? I'm sure she mentioned that would include half stars so fingers crossed!

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  16. I'm a half-star rater hehe. I have a rating system too but most of the time I go into analyzing what didn't work for me and whether it was a big something (-1 star) or not (-.5 star) after an initial rating. Half stars only happen with 3 stars and up for me though. I feel like there's no point to a 2.5 or 1.5 haha. Awesome post Allie!

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    1. A 1.5 half star would kind of crack me up because . . . what's the point? The book clearly wasn't enjoyable lol

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  17. I no longer give books ratings as all and I love it :)

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    1. I've seen a few blogs adopt that style! I quite like ratings though, because they some things up and are a bit eye-catching, you know? No ratings makes for some very in depth reviews though!

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  18. I'm sort of obsessed with half star ratings. If Goodreads would change their policy, I would seriously go back through my 700+ ratings and fix the ones that need half stars haha. For me, the most common I give are 3 1/2 or 4 1/2. I do that because I compare other books I've given 3, 4, or 5 stars to, and sometimes they fall right in between. *shrugs* It is a little bit OCD, I'll admit.

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    1. LOL. Oh, God, that might take you a couple of years to do :P

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  19. I used to round based on the .5 = round up rule. Basically because Amazon and Goodreads didn't do half stars. Now, I round down for those sites (well their stars mean different things anyway) because on my blog I can do partial stars. One of the plugins I use does an average rating report and can do all decimals, and then I round to the nearest 1/2 star for the UBBP selection. I really prefer to be able to use half stars because there is such a spread of what a rating means anyway.

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    1. I get what you mean. I think half stars can be more universal, in a way, than standard ratings, because they can convey things a bit more specifically an,d like you said, ratings can vary so much from blog-to-blog in meaning. Saying that though, I find it really easy to place a book in a certain star category. I don't feel like half stars add anything for me, personally.

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  20. OMG Allie.STOP THINKING SO MUCH
    serouisly —has anyone ever told you to stop musing? LOL
    I rate books half stars because i'm just so unsure. When I rate a 3 I mean to say "I enjoyed it" when I rate it a 4 I mean ot say "I really enjoyed it" and a 5 star read is me saying "I FRIGGIN LOVED IT! IT WAS PERFECT" and sometimes you just need to half something because while it passes the "I really enjoyed it" stage it never quite reached the "I FRIGGIN LOVED IT! IT WAS PERFECT" stage!

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    1. MY BRAIN IS TOO BIG TO EVER STOP THINKING (well, not really, but shhhh letmehavethat).

      I think you need to stop being so indecisive and just pick a star, lily. CHOOOOOOOSE. You must choose!

      Also, bear in mind that if I half-starred then I'd have to chop the birdies in half. And that'd make them sad

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  21. I don't half star because I think it gets WAAAY too complicated. And like you, I just round down with my ratings instead of going halfsies. If I REALLY liked a book and I'm stuck between a 4 and a 5, then it's a 4, since it wasn't for sure a 5 for me. (Basically like you said).

    My own rating scale is a bit different from yours, but I also have a page that explains my scale, which is all that matters. There's no universal rule for rating, but as long as bloggers explain things, via review or a special page, then it's cool with me.

    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts.

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    1. Yay, it's good to find someone like-minded!

      There's definitely no universal rating rule, and it's actually really interesting to see how it varies from blog-to-blog. Plus you can always tell by the review what that person classes their star rating as.

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  22. Oh, I definitely need half stars. I use them ALL the time! To me, there is a big gap between stars, and I often want to rate something between. For Goodreads and Amazon, I just have to round up or down, depending on which way I think is more appropriate and then tell people that it's really a 3.5 star review (or whatever).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I think if GR don't adopt the half-star thing soon, bloggers may riot lol. It seems everyone hates having to round for them!

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  23. I'm going to introduce you to something even worse: quarter stars. And I'm guilty of them. I know, it's a horrendously terrible habit and it doesn't happen all to often but sometimes certain books aren't halfs nor are they wholes. I have a pretty weird rating system that makes sense in my brain but not so much in others. These quarter stars tend to occur in between 3.5 and 4. And it's because I reserve 3s for meh books. 3.5 for meh books with one redeeming quality. 4 for books I liked with obvious faults but a few redeeming qualities. And sometimes it's hard to differentiate between those and suddenly I want to half the rating again :/ *sigh* I've really got to stop this...Fabulous post though!

    Jess @ MyReadingDress

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    1. Quarter stars . . . say what? That's actually a thing? Haha, we bloggers are so indecisive sometimes!
      Jess, get your reviewer self together and come over to the dark side of whole stars only ;)

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  24. I am terrible when it comes to half ratings, I give far too many. But then I just round up on Goodreads and Amazon anyway. It would probably be easier for me to just rate something what I rounded it up to. BUT I CAN'T! I can't stop myself. Sometimes a book just isn't one and it isn't the other, it's inbetween. At least for me it makes sense.

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    1. I get it, sometimes books are hard to place. Maybe I'm just a harsh critic? Haha. I do tend to round down as well, so actually, yeah, I probably am a bit of a tough reviewer *manic laugh*

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  25. I use half stars because... why not. I totally understand your logic of "if I'm struggling to give it a 3, then it doesn't deserve a 3, so I give it 2". But as long as we CAN use half stars, I'd rather pick a rating I feel perfectly happy with than "settle" for knocking it down a whole number, you know?

    That's nothing wrong with half stars, so I use them on my blog when it feels right. :)

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