Good Criticism Versus Bad Criticism

Chris Brogran recently wrote a nice little article about the value of criticism and the differences between good criticism and bad criticism. The main value in criticism is that it gives you an opportunity to improve. If someone else can spot a problem or a weak spot in your work (in this case writing) and help you improve, that is useful. If someone has a problem with your writing but can’t or won’t explain it in a way that is useful (and not mean) then it really isn’t good criticism. The same goes for minor nitpicks. Spotting a typo on a blog with no editor (like this one) isn’t really a challenge. If you spot a typo, and it really matters to you, there’s nothing wrong with pointing it out but there’s nothing wrong with letting it slide either.

Here are four questions you should ask before criticizing someone else’s work:

  • Is this important?
  • Am I arguing over facts or opinions?
  • Have I given the matter some genuine thought?
  • How can I say it without being a jerk?

If you can get past those four questions, then you should be able to give useful criticism.

3 thoughts on “Good Criticism Versus Bad Criticism

  1. I totally agree. Constructive criticism/critiques given in a balanced way should always be welcome – even though sometimes we’d rather just enjoy the warm afterglow of finishing something.
    I find many people aren’t able to give good criticism because they can’t express themselves in a helpful manner, or don’t realise saying something is good or bad doesn’t amount to either a criticism or a critique.
    I am in a position to critique work by other writers (as a hobby) but sometimes, even though I have issues with what I’ve read, I find that I can’t say what I need to say without resorting to ‘it’s a pile of crap’. At such times I always feel it’s best to say nothing.
    Keep up the good work with your blog, I follow it via twitter and find it’s one of the few that I enjoy reading – mainly because you follow your own line of thinking and you’re not trying to sell me something – and also because it’s short. :)

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