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Thursday, June 5, 2008

3 Tips for Online Critique

100,000 Words of Oblivion by inkswamp

Keep these things in mind if you're giving or receiving critiques online.

1. Online critique comments can sound harsher than you mean them to.
Don’t be offended if something comes across as curt – it may not have been intended that way. Many jokes fall flat in email/text versions without voice inflections to help them along, so give your critter the benefit of the doubt. On the flip side, make comments on other people’s work carefully. Emoticons may be cutesy, but they can soften a comment that may seem harsh otherwise. Also abbreviations like IMHO (In my humble opinion) tend to soften the tone. So if you're offended by a critique, get over it :)

2. Online critique often offers time for reflection that real-time critique groups may not.
Sometimes we feel compelled to shorten our comments at a face to face critique if we are last in line to offer advice. Online critiques give us a chance to say everything fully, without editing. Use the extra online time to give a more effective critique. You may want to read your buddy’s submission once without making any comments, just to get a feel for it. Then go over it again (either immediately or a few days later) with an eye toward making suggestions. It’s also a good idea to leave an overall comment about the piece at the end.

3. Mandate how much critique should be done.
While online critique can sometimes lead to more in-depth comments, sometimes if your critique partner doesn't have to look you in the eye, he or she may skimp on critique. If you start your own online critique group or join one, have a rule that says everyone needs at least two hundred to three hundred total words of critique (this includes intext comments). That way members aren’t tempted to skimp on analysis when they’re juggling 2.5 kids, a job, and making tonight's mac and cheese. Plus it often spurs you to make more thoughtful observations about the writing.