The Etiquette of Peer Critique

      Comments Off on The Etiquette of Peer Critique

What do you look for when you read a story critically? See the checklist here.

But in this post, I’m going to talk about the quality and texture of such critique. This is more the etiquette than the craft. Every time a writer hands another person a story to read, the reader has a responsibility – of helping to make the story better and do no harm. Always ensure your feedback however honest is kind and generous.

So here are the things you must look out in your own self when you critique:

  1. Don’t be afraid to give your comments / critiques because you haven’t done it before. Take risks and read material different from your comfort zone – if you write only poetry, don’t be afraid to critique short stories / chapters of novels.
  1. Qualify your prejudices. If you don’t prefer religious stories or science fiction and you happen to critique them, mention that before you write down your critiques.
  1. Focus on the work, not the author. Make sure your comments are directed at the manuscript, not at the authors themselves.
  1. Be honest, but be polite. Holding back your honest opinions for fear of causing offence does not help the other writer.
  1. Be specific whenever possible. You can give overall comments, but also go into specifics – a phrase / a para that didn’t work for you. Give examples of improvements if possible.
  1. Don’t rewrite for the author. If you think a particular sentence needs work, mention it. Don’t rewrite it.
  1. Don’t read other critiques of this story before you start critiquing yours.
  1. Start with the general impression of a reader and then analyse it as an editor.
  1. Praise where praise is due. It is easy to forget to point out the good parts.
  1. Provide extra information like a book the writer can read, another book written on the same subject, an article you read about the topic etc. Add value to your critiques.

Here are some links on giving critiques to read further: