Critique with kindness

Kindness is the secret to our success

When you comment on a story you are holding someone’s dream in your hands. Please don’t ever forget that.

One of the best things about this site is the positive, supportive spirit. We are here to learn and grow, but we can’t forget that we have a great responsibility.

A huge part of our challenges is about giving and receiving feedback. When I started this site, it was my greatest fear that someone would stop writing because of a thoughtless comment they received here and that is why I ask for kindness.

We are here to learn, but we learn through thoughtful, thorough, and gentle feedback. Critiquing is an art. Just like we must learn to write we have to learn how to critique.

Somewhere along the line, we got told that if the review doesn’t leave you in tears, it is not a good review. We have been told that we have to be able to take it. Yes, a writer must be open to receiving feedback, but there is no need to destroy their creative spirit. That’s just another lie that creatives are lead to believe. A good writer is a confident writer and we build our confidence by learning from good, kind feedback.

  1. The purpose of a critique is to comment on the writer’s work. Not to try and make it sound like you wrote it.
  2. When I say ‘be kind’ I don’t mean that you can’t say anything negative, what I mean is, think about HOW you say it. If you did not understand a story, instead of saying ‘I understood nothing’ or ‘This is confusing’ it is better to say, ‘I read your story and I have some questions…’
  3. Always give compliments. Suggest improvements, but they should be just that suggestions.
  4. Never rewrite a writer’s work, unless they ask you to. It is not your place. They will figure it out all on their own when they are ready. This is not your job.
  5. Be kind. Always, especially with something like grammar. This is an English site, but many members are second language English speakers. It’s incredibly hard to write in a second language. I promise you they posted the best version of their story. If they knew it was wrong, they would have fixed it. If you can, offer to help them. Scan their story for them the day before or send them a private message and suggest some changes. Please think before you type.
  6. Passive voice is good for critiques. Instead of ‘You did this wrong…’ try ‘Common theory dictates…’ or ‘Rule of thumb…’.
  7. Don’t overwhelm the writer with a very long, detailed list of every single error. Pick the most relevant and work from there.
  8. Limit your comments to their work
  9. Avoid using negative words like, don’twon’t, can’t and anything that starts with non- and un-
  10. Start with something positive that way it’s easier to stay positive. Try some of these phrases:
  • This is interesting…
  • Great concept…
  • Awesome premise…
  • I love how…
  • This line made me…
  • What a fun story…
  • You could try…
  • I suggest…
  • Perhaps…
  • Have you considered…?
  1. Always have more positive points than negative ones.
  2. Try the sandwich technique. First, give a compliment, then suggest an improvement, and end with another compliment.

Be kind. Always.
Be kind. Not everyone has been writing for as long as you have.
Be kind. They may be sharing their writing for the first time.
Be kind. They may not be writing in their mother tongue.
Be kind. They may have done everything in their power to meet the deadline and then missed a typo.
Be kind. They may be experimenting.
Be kind. Always.