Have you been asked to critique a piece of writing? In this post, we’ve included an essential writer’s guide on how to critique with kindness.
It’s good for a writer to be part of a community or critique group where they can learn and grow, but sometimes the feedback can be harsh and soul destroying.
You’ll find lots of information on the internet on how to receive negative feedback, all kinds of ‘take it on the chin’ or ‘grow a thick skin’ advice, but less information on how not to give soul destroying feedback.
Kindness Is Crucial
Kindness is the secret to your success. When you comment on a story you are holding someone’s dream in your hands. Please don’t ever forget that.
Writers join critique groups to learn, but we learn through thoughtful, thorough, and gentle feedback. Critiquing is an art. Just like we must learn to write we have to learn how to critique.
Somewhere along the line we were told that if the review doesn’t leave you in tears, you can’t learn or improve. We have been told that we have to be able to take it.
Yes, a writer must be open to receiving feedback, but there is no need to destroy their creative spirit. That’s just another lie that creatives are lead to believe. A good writer is a confident writer and we build our confidence by learning from good, kind feedback.
How To Critique With Kindness – A Writer’s Guide
Try the following:
- The purpose of a critique is to comment on the writer’s work. Not to try to make it sound as if you wrote it.
- When I say ‘be kind’ I don’t mean that you can’t say anything negative, what I mean is, think about HOW you say it. If you did not understand a story, instead of saying ‘I understood nothing…’ or ‘This is confusing…’ it is better to say, ‘I read your story and I have some questions…’
- Always give compliments. ‘This made me laugh.’ or ‘Great description of…’
- Suggest improvements, but they should just be suggestions.
- Never rewrite a writer’s work, unless they ask you to. It is not your place. They will figure it out all on their own when they are ready. This is not your job.
- Be kind. Always, especially with something like grammar. Not everyone writes in their mother tongue. It’s incredibly hard to write in a second language. I promise you they posted the best version of their story. If they knew it was wrong, they would have fixed it. If you can, offer to help them. Scan their story for them before they submit or send them a private message and suggest some changes. Please think before you comment.
- Passive voice is good for critiques. Instead of ‘You did this wrong…’ try ‘Common theory dictates…’ or ‘Rule of thumb…’.
- Don’t overwhelm the writer with a very long, detailed list of every single error. Pick the most relevant and work from there.
- Limit your comments to their work.
- Avoid using negative words like, don’t, won’t, can’t and anything that starts with non- and un-
- Start positively. That way it’s easier to stay positive. Try some of these phrases:
- This is interesting…
- Great concept…
- Awesome premise…
- I love how…
- This line made me…
- What a fun story…
- You could try…
- I suggest…
- Have you considered…?
- Always have more positive points than negative ones.
- Try the sandwich technique. First give a compliment, then suggest an improvement, and end with another compliment.
The Last Word
I hope this post gives you some tips on how to critique with kindness.
by Mia Botha
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