Communicating With Your Critique Partner

Communicating With Your Critique Partner

The Logistics:

– We encourage email as the primary means of communicating with your CPs. Word doc, Pages & Google Doc all have commenting functions. This is a blessing!

– If you prefer to be verbal, Skype is the best way to call your partner for free, or low cost internationally.

– Finally, if you prefer to discuss direction through instant messaging, Gmail, MSN & Skype all have live-time chat functions that you can utilize for free.

The Etiquette: 

– Be aware of how your critique can come across in email or on paper. Try to be diplomatic in your critique and careful of your wording. CAPS LOCK SCREAMS AT ME. Commands are too harsh. Try to avoid personal pronouns (e.g. You). Focus on the story not the writer. Compare “You forgot to mention x,y, z” vs “ X, Y, Z is missing here”

– Critique the writing, not the writer. Don’t start comments with “You/ Your…” but with “The sentence/ character/ prose” and so on. 

– Remember that specific, concrete suggestions are always more helpful (though less charming) than broader ones “I loved the character, plot is great”. Nice, not helpful.

Say This, Not That:

The wonderful Andrew Burt from wrote this great piece on how to be a diplomatic critiquer. I can’t put it into words any better than he has already, so if you have some time read the full article here. In a nutshell, here are the basic points of diplomatic critiquing:


The tactful, diplomatic approach:

 “You might consider,” “have you thought about,” “another idea could be,” “possibly,” “might be” “maybe”… 

The harsh and unnecessary approach:

“You need to,” “you have to,” “you should,” “you must,” “can’t,” “don’t,” “!”…

Again; tactful:

“I feel like… {my opinion}

“I would prefer…”

“I think it might be better…”

“Have you considered trying it this way?”

vs. harsh:

“Editors don’t like”

“Readers don’t want”

“{Some citation of an authority here}”

“I didn’t like…”

“This doesn’t make any sense”.

 Happy Critiquing!

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