How to Write a Great Critique

You might also want to check out How to Write a Great Critique, an article by Daniel Rodrigues-Martin in our Writing Academy.

The best writers are also the best readers! Giving other writers insight into how to improve their works is a very important part of Scribophile. Polite, detailed, and thorough critiques let the author grow as a writer and improve your standing in the Scribophile community. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you’re responding to works:

1. Anyone can critique!

Some people may think that they’re unqualified to give advice to others just because they’re new writers. That’s just plain untrue. You’ve been reading since you were a kid—you know good writing when you see it and you know bad writing when you see it. Don’t be afraid to post comments and critiques and to speak your mind. Remember that everybody’s here to learn!

2. Be polite.

Every work has a part of the author in it. When authors post, they put a little bit of themselves out there into the world. They’re vulnerable. They’re nervous. They hope people like it. Of course, not everybody is going to like it, and in fact, the work may need serious rethinking and revision. But that doesn’t mean that your critique can’t be polite. Even the rankest of amateurs need a steady, guiding hand so that they can get better. Being rude, insulting, or demeaning will only serve to scare the author away from writing and hurt their feelings.

3. Be relevant.

A comment of “I liked it!” or “Great work!” can be a friendly, supportive gesture, and is always welcomed. But a serious critique needs more substance than that. As you’re formulating your critique, think of how what you’re saying will help the author improve their work. Do your comments, whether detailed or general, give the author useful advice?

4. Be thorough.

Not every critique has to be long and involved, but oftentimes the best ones are just that. The more detail you can provide, the more the author can learn from. Consider doing a line-by-line breakdown of the work. Comment on things like sentence structure and punctuation. Get your hands dirty. The author will have learned something, and you’ll get more karma points!

Keep these tips in mind as you write critiques and comments. Remember that when you write a good critique, chances are the author will write a good one for you in return!