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How To Critique (Other Writers’ Work)

Here’s an extract from an excellent article by Melissa Donovan on the Writing Forward blog, on how to critique other writers’ work.  Please pay particular attention to the tip on being compassionate!  Read the full article here.

“Constructive criticism involves a little compassion. If someone cares enough about their work to show it around and invite feedback, then it’s probably something in which they are emotionally invested. If you are the person they feel is qualified to provide that feedback, then embrace the invitation as an honor, and approach it with respect.

It can be awkward at first — after all, who wants to be the bearer of bad news (and almost every critique contains at least a little bad news)? After you do a few critiques, you’ll get the hang of it, and it will become easier and more natural. Just keep these basic tips on how to critique in mind:

  • Don’t provide a critique unless you’ve been invited to do so.
  • Don’t waste time on writers who are looking for praise. Seek out writers who want feedback that will genuinely help them improve their work.
  • Take time and make an effort so you can offer a critique that is thoughtful and helpful; otherwise, just politely decline.
  • Critique the writing, not the writer.
  • Always start with the strengths, then address the weaknesses and problem areas using positive language.
  • Be objective, especially if the piece you’re critiquing is not in a style or genre that you prefer.
  • Make solid suggestions for improvement. Don’t be vague.
  • Follow up with the writer to offer support and encouragement.”