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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Critique Tips

What makes a good critique?

First and foremost, a good critique is one that is useful to the writer. For that reason, the definition of “good” will vary from writer to writer.

The most important element to getting the most from a critique is to write the best piece you can. Avoid common spelling and grammar errors to the best of your ability and submit polished content to your critiquers. (Thank you in advance.)

But what do you do if you’re the one critiquing? Where do you start?

Here are some suggestions, in no particular order, to get you started. Remember, though, just as in writing, critiquing gets better with practice!

-Read the piece through once, just to get a feel for what the writer is trying to do.

-If any grammar or spelling errors jump out at you, note them.

-Some people prefer to critique by hand on a printed copy, while some prefer to do so on the computer. Either way is fine, as long as you write legibly by hand if that’s your method of choice (after all, if the writer can’t read your critique, they can’t very well benefit from it!).

-If you use the computer, it’s a good idea to use something to set your comments apart from the main body of the text. Use a different color, bold typeface, or collect your comments at the beginning or end of the document.

-Be specific.

-Be specific. (No, that’s not a typo – it’s such an important point it bears repeating.)

-Be specific. Vague “this is good” or “this is awful” are not helpful to the writer, no matter how heartfelt they may be to you. The point when doing a critique is to help the writer; if you don’t believe you can do so, then do not critique.

-Give examples. If you tell someone “use active voice,” show them what you mean.

-Do not assume the writer knows the jargon. Define your terms!

1 comment:

Dee said...

While "it's great" feels good, "I wish the author would have elaborated on...." is so much better. Some writes I know want the ego boost of "it's great," but personally? I want to grow as a writer. You can be honest without being cruel, too. If you're mean or spiteful, you'll only hurt feelings and make yourself look petty in the process.

Start with what works. "I loved the description...", then follow with what doesn't. "The character's names are used too frequently."

Finally, focus on the writing and don't attack the writer personally. "Only a moron would use "then" instead of "than"" is far less effective than, "Perhaps more time with an editor would have benefitted..."