How to Give and Receive a Writing Critique

If you have ever submitted your writing to an online writing community for review, you’ve probably received a critique (either positive or negative) for your work. You waited and nervously looked for any feedback other writers would leave on your “masterpiece.” If you’re honest, you

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probably hoped for glowing comments that praised your literary skills rather than critical remarks.

If you got an “Awesome job!” review, you probably did a happy dance, boosting your confidence as a writer. However, if you didn’t get praise, but criticism, what was your reaction? Did you take it constructively or were you offended? On the other hand, if you always get praise is that always a good thingg?

Being human, I know how good it feels to be praised for my writing (or anything else for that matter). Years ago, I paid more money than I care to admit for a writing correspondence course. Much to my surprise, my instructor usually had good things to say about the articles and short stories that I submitted throughout the two-year course. However, did I really learn that much? After all, I paid my hard-earned money to improve my writing—not just get good reviews. Today I wonder if it was worth it….

Actually, I’ve learned much more when I signed up (for free) to two online writing communities where I not only wrote articles, but was able to receive feedback for them, as well as critique other writers. The feedback I received wasn’t from teachers, but from fellow freelancers as myself. I have to admit that I grew more from constructive criticism (which was free) than I did when I paid big bucks for a writing course. All I had to invest was some time commenting on the work of other freelancers.

First of all, how do you give a constructive critique?

I like to think of what’s been called the “sandwhich approach”. The bread is something positive you note about the writing, sandwiched in-between some constructive criticism. For example, don’t say….”This stinks. A fifth-grader could do better….” Instead, say, “I like the way you’ve

presented the main characters. However, I think you need to tone down the language. Also, watch your point of view (POV) shifts, as well as an overuse of exclamation marks and adverbs. Overall, you’re on the right track. Keep writing!”

On the other hand, unless the piece is close to perfection, try not to slap a critique such as….”Awesome! This is excellent!”. By all means, praise the writing, but also try and search for something (ever it be so small) that can be improved, as that’s how writers improve and grow in their craft.

How do you receive a critique?

Similarly, you need to learn to receive criticism, as well as give it. If a thoughtless critique insults your writing, don’t let it discourage you. Just take it that the person giving it is immature and does not know how to encourage beginning writers. You could follow up on it, asking why him (or her) to elaborate on how you could improve your writing. You may even go so far as to let him know that his (or her) feedback has discouraged you.

Also, try to give and receive as many critiques as you can. Different critiquersnotice different things, so it helps to get as much feedback as possible.

As a final note, when you give a critique, apply the golden rule. Try to think of how you would like to be treated when someone is giving you feedback. This will help you give an honest, as well as encouraging feedback to someone else.

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