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How To Write A Good Critique

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Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:12 pm
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Emerson says...


A critique in its basic form is a combination of several things: compliments, complaints, whys, and how to fix it. Although, this can be debated, and I’m sure someone out there will stick their nose in and say something about it. Out of the four steps, the last one is probably the only one you can occasionally leave off, but only with good reason.

So what do each of the steps look like? I’ll explain them all, and then give a simplified example, because not all of us write really long critiques :-D


This part is best to do first, but sometimes you find it hard to pick out the good things. Even if you can only find one thing you liked about the story/poem, mention it. If you can find a lot of good things, even better! But it is always good to try and mention at least one thing you liked about the work, to balance out the bad, that way the writer doesn’t feel like what they wrote was entire crap (unless it was…kidding!).

I really liked the way your characters acted. The voice you used was so good. You started in a unique way.

NOTE: These may seem very short and dull, but that is because they get followed by ‘whys’. The ‘why’ part is what makes the compliment the most helpful. Because you have to remember, the goal of a critique isn’t to boost the writer’s self-esteem (OMG! That was the best story I ever read! Write more soon!!!!) it is to help them know what they do good, and why, sot they can continue to do it later on.


This is the part of the critique that you have to be careful on. Remember, we are not insulting the writer or their writing, we are pointing out where they need improvement. I’ll talk more later about things never to do in critiques.

The complaints tend to be comments on, like I said, areas where the writer can improve. Pretty simple idea to get and I’m not exactly what more I could say on the topic. What didn’t you like? What could have been better? What was flat out wrong? What was really gross?

You could improve on your entrance. Your characters were boring. The dialog seemed fake. The ending was cliché. You could get rid of those info dumps.


This is the part you are waiting for, isn’t it? The whys, the best most helpful, part of the whole critique! This is the part of the critique that follows the compliment or complaint, and the word “because” in most cases.

This part of the critique is SO important I can’t even begin to ramble about it. Without the whys, your critique is empty fluff and does the write no good at all. What is the point in telling someone you love them if you can’t tell them why? A lot of newbies begin to write critiques with the first two parts perfect, but then seem to forget the last two. The why gives the writer more insight onto what they should continue to do, and exactly what things they need to fix.


I really liked the way your characters acted because it was so real to life. The voice you used was so good because it got me inside of your characters head. You started in a unique way because I have never seen a story start like this before, and you pulled it off perfectly. You pulled me right in and I couldn’t stop reading.

You could improve on your entrance because I had trouble getting through it with all the background information. Your characters were boring because all they did was sit around and watch tv, I already do enough of that for myself and all your characters. The dialog seemed fake because you repeated yourself so much. The ending was cliché because it was just like Romeo and Juliet. You could get rid of those info dumps because info dumps are annoying to read.

NOTE: all of my examples, both from the compliments and the complaints, were ‘because’ examples. But you don’t always need the word because; just write it how you naturally would. But if you find yourself struggling at first with learning how to critique, use the word because and it should prompt you into getting your thoughts out.


This pertains entirely to complaints. Like I said above, this isn’t always needed because sometimes you can’t think of a way to fix it or it is a case where it’s so easy to fix they can think of it themselves. But it is always nice to include this if at all possible, to help jog the writer into making their work the best possible.

It consists, simply, of giving the writer a way to fix what you complained about. Everything is real simple in this article, isn’t it?

You could get rid of those info dumps because info dumps are annoying to read. A good way to fix them is by spreading your information out. When you meet someone for the first time, do you learn everything about them right away? No, so it shouldn’t be like that in a story. [This last part was an explanation. Don’t forget to explain yourself; otherwise you may leave the writer slightly confused by the end. You need to back up your opinions; otherwise the writer may be more likely to not agree with you and your viewpoint.]


This list could be miles long, but I’ll make it short and sweet. Never directly insult the writer, or their work. No matter how “bad” the writing is, everyone starts somewhere and no one is ever perfect. There is no need to make it personal. Along this same line, don’t directly insult other people’s critiques and opinions; this only starts fights. You can disagree, but do so without mentioning the person you disagree with. Don’t make it “I disagree with Claudette” turn it into “I think that you should…” make it your opinion, rather than a disagreement.

Another tip I have, somewhat unrelated to the aforementioned, is that you should not read the previously given critiques until you have written your own and sent it in. Reading other peoples opinions could make you biased, rather than being completely honest. You should go into a critique with a clean idea of the writing. Afterwards, you can read others critiques. But don\'t let others opinions change the way you may or may not feel about someone else\'s writing, even before you have looked at it for yourself. Make your own judgments.

This is from another article I wrote about critiques, which you can find Here.

Never critique something by saying “This sucks” without saying why. In fact, don’t use harsh words while critiquing at all, be polite and caring. The point of critiquing is to encourage the writer to improve. (I don’t know how many times I’ve said something like this now…)

There could always be more added to this, but I can’t think of anymore for now. I’m sure others will chime in.


To end this article, I would like to say that not all critiques have to be like this. In fact, it is debated what a critique should and shouldn’t be. These are only guidelines taken from my own knowledge of critiquing, and from these guidelines you can improve and form your own way of critiquing. No two people critique the same. So, in short, please don’t yell at me saying, “But not all critiques are a like! But there is no REAL way to critique! It’s just how ever you want!” Sure, you could say that, but in the end there is definitely a form and a shape to how one critiques, there is with everything. This just happens to be my idea of what a critique should be like, or at the least resemble.
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Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:55 pm
Rydia says...

You have some really good tips here Suzie and I think I agree with all of them and I certainly wouldn't be any good at critiquing without some of the advice you gave me when I first joined the site.
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Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:52 pm
starlight88 says...

Very thoughtful information. Proper critique is rare. Instead people criticize.

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Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:40 pm
Sakah says...

Thank you for writing this article - I will definitely re-read this whenever I critique another writer's work. I'd love to add much more depth to my reviews instead of my normal, "That was amazing! Be sure to post more soon."
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Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:08 pm
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Hannah says...

I especially like the part about not reading other people's critiques before you write your own, because when I accidentally do, I feel like I accidentally read the end of a short story or something, and I can't review freshly after that.
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Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:10 am
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strawberryquill says...

Thanks!!! it really helped :D

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Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:07 am
Spongy20 says...

This really helps me a lot and I couldn't agree more of everything you've said. But I just wanted to ask if in critiquing, is there or what parts of the poem, story, article, etc in where you should focus more on making a critique? Like on punctuation marks, beginning, ending, etc? Is there anything like that?

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Thu Jun 15, 2017 6:08 am
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Rosendorn says...

@Spongy20 focus on whatever part jumps out at you the most!

The goal of reviewing is to give authors your impression of how their work reads. So if a beginning doesn't hook me, I'll talk about the beginning. If the grammar makes the work difficult to read, then I'll discuss improving it (many people find that reviews that focus on "your comma is wrong here" type nit picks aren't very useful, since you're looking at the structure of the work, but for me if the grammar makes the work really hard to read then I definitely will point it out). If the ending felt weak or out of left field, I focus on that.

There's no hard and fast rule for what you should focus on. Whatever catches your eye is the right answer.
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