A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the secret to getting your work critiqued: Critique someone else’s first. That said, giving a good critique is hard work. It requires some time and thought to develop constructive criticism. It’s much easier to bow out of the challenge and just say what you like about the piece. It’s also easy to rip someone’s hard work to shreds once you get into the frenzy of criticism. But a good critique is a combination of elements—it’s an opportunity to make thoughtful, helpful suggestions for improvement and offer compliments where they’re warranted.
A simple formula for a constructive critique is the “sandwich” model, in which the person giving the critique starts by offering a positive comment about the work followed by suggestions for improvement, and then wraps it up with positive comments. (Please note, a suggestion for improvement is just that—a suggestion, not a brow-beating!).
Be gentle. This is especially important if you’re doing an online critique. Consider how your words will come across to the writer. When the person receiving the critique doesn’t have the benefit of facial expressions and conversational inflections to guide him, online criticism is often interpreted much more harshly than was intended. When you offer criticism, read your suggestion carefully and ask yourself, “Would this comment help me improve if this were my writing?”
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Looking for an online critique group? For tips on finding one that’s a good fit for you, take a look at this article from our April 2010 issue: “Get started: Choosing an online critique group” by Cathie Gandel.
-- Martha Lundin, editorial associate, The Writer
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