As important as it is to read our own work and analyze it for ourselves, it’s equally as important we criticize other work to learn from. Providing criticism is key to any writer or artist as it allows the creator to learn what they truly want from their deviations and provide the other person with ways to make their work more appealing. Providing criticism though is not just a matter of stating what is wrong but rather stating your thoughts honestly. They should be helpful to the person receiving them after all, and therefore it shouldn’t just be criticism but rather constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a step above criticism because it requires the critic to look at a piece from a multitude of different perspectives. Like any other process, a person’s way of critique will be unique for them, but there are some guidelines on how to start.
The most basic way of beginning constructive criticism is by utilizing a “P.I.Q.” format. This will have you begin by stating positive things you noticed, then state any improvements, and finish by asking any clarifying questions you had about the piece. This will ensure that you hit all different areas of criticism and provide the creator with various topics for them to think about. This strategy has also been called at times the “sandwich strategy” not only because of the three different layers but also because of the balance in your critique. Much like a sandwich, you want to balance what you put in it so one flavor doesn’t override the others too much and the same can be said for constructive criticism. You should try and balance your positive feedback, suggestions for improvement, and questions so that the creator has equal balance of all your criticism. Focusing too much on one of the categories could give the wrong impression of the piece you are critiquing and make the creator thing wrongly about their work. Regardless of your experience, this strategy works very well for providing criticism to someone you don’t know very well or someone who doesn’t know how they would like to receive criticism.
More experienced criticism giving comes into a more personal level. This should only be used if you know the person directly or have a very good idea of who they are. Now it’s very important to still be concise with your ideas regardless of how close you are with the other person because in the end you are trying to improve their work. Still though, being comfortable communicating with the person in how you would usually talk can make them feel more trustworthy in your criticisms. The focus though should always be in the work and not in the person. Unless if it relates to your feedback about the work, bringing in your or the creator’s personal lives into your criticism is usually irrelevant in what you are trying to accomplish. This is key when providing criticism to someone close as it’s easy for us to get sidetracked in side- conversation.
Overall, when providing feedback, remember to always focus on the work and be constructive with your criticism. Feel free to state how you would change something or how you would keep something the same, but make sure you are specific. Being specific with your criticisms goes a long way in helping the creator. Using quotes, referencing specific lines, or even labeling directly on a copy of their work would help any creator. If it’s not clear why you are giving a specific kind of feedback, reflect on yourself and provide a reason why you think something is working or not. Just stating that you like/dislike something but don’t know why won’t help a writer, but providing them with clear reasons can help them better shape their work.
We’ve discussed so far how someone should provide constructive criticism but how should someone take it? Well, receiving constructive criticism is just as important as providing it, as mentioned in the beginning. The process of taking in feedback is sort of the opposite of providing it, as one would predict. If we were to use the sandwich analogy, providing constructive criticism is making the sandwich, while taking it would be eating. As opposed to analyzing something, you should be reflecting on it, and trying to view someone else’s opinion with an open mind. Much like with providing constructive criticism, there are also helpful ways to help you receive it better.
You must keep an open mind and not take anything personally. Remember that the feedback you are receiving is about your work, not you specifically. Some of the feedback you receive may hurt though. There may be a line or quote you were very proud of but the critic didn’t like it as much. When this happens read carefully what they say and keep an open mind. Sometimes the line you wrote wasn’t a bad idea but rather just worded poorly. There are many ways in which you can improve work and sometimes it takes someone else to see those ways.
Another important thing for you to do is to use the feedback you receive. There’s no point in receiving constructive criticism if you’re not going to use it, so be sure to do so! Never be afraid to ask your critic what they meant by certain comments and if they are willing to also review your revisions. A good critic wants to see the word they revised to improve and reaching out to a trustworthy critic multiple times is never a bad idea.
Overall, constructive criticism is an important part of the creative process. It’s a learning curve for some as they are not used to it, but like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. Keep doing your best to provide feedback and receive it; eventually you will discover your preferred methods. Below are a couple of websites with some more in depth tips should you want more information.
Providing Constructive Criticism
Receiving Constructive Criticism