Constructive/Destructive

There are two sorts of criticism, constructive and destructive. There is really only one thing to say about destructive criticism, and that is to ignore it. The following 7 Things deals with giving and accepting beneficial and constructive criticism.

Intention:

The intent of constructive criticism is to improve, and build upon something someone else has done.

  • read read, snag, that's not right, that needs to be fixed!

Communication:

Communication is very often a lost art, and what we mean to say, what we actually write, and what out subject reads can be three completely different things. Poor communication on a basic level very quickly leads to hostility and hurt feelings on both sides.

  • I like what you have written, and I am not attacking you, but what you have written could be better.

Expression:

Where communication is HOW we say, Expression is WHAT we say. It is obvious, or should be obvious, that honesty and sincerity are vital, but these are functions of communication. Expression is the old writer's adage of Show, don't Tell.

  • It is easy for a criticism to be taken personally, and it is just as easy to make a critique into a personal issue. I have seen a writer who dealt with dyslexia be brought to tears by three words on a critique: Learn to spell.

Definition:

Criticism isn't the place for vague statements. Go to the issue, point out the problem, identify it.

  • This can be as basic as pointing out typos, to as involved as referencing contradictory information, identifying elements of literature inside the context of the writing or locating discrepancies or misfits in thematic structure.

Gratification:

In handing out criticism it is important to remind, or keep in mind that the reason behind the criticism is that at heart, you like what you have read, or you see something of value in it, and want to help the writer make it better. (Unless you're beating a dead horse, and your criticism is negative, and probably moves over into the destructive category)

  • I enjoy your writing style, or the subject matter, or the genre that you are writing in. Also, pointing out positives and things that were liked can take the sting out of other critical observations, which in turn makes the entire exchange function more smoothly.

Direction:

Where do we go from here? The problem has been identified, but pointing out problems is only half of criticism, the other half is if not offering the solutions, pointing out where those solutions might be.

  • Pointing out solutions to problems are as specific as the problems themselves. This could be as simple as spell check, to as involved as pointing out that some aspect of the origin is missing, a logical conclusion doesn't make sense, or other means of improvement.

Reflection:

What will the result of the criticism? Will the changes and questions be addressed? Or will the tone and subtext of the critique simply be ignored, or spark hostility.

  • By editing, or rewriting, or reconsidering X, it will pull the piece together, promote synergy, and avoid the potential of seeing a good idea fall because of what is either a minor issue, or a major one that was hiding in the writer's blind spot.
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