For several years, I worked for a website that cultivated new and experienced writers for the emerging internet article market.
I would send out hundreds of letters a day to professional and amateur writers suggesting format changes, word count reductions, and creating SEO friendly material.
In short, I read, I evaluated, I critiqued.
Writers are a sensitive lot. I can't blame them. Criticism is hard to take, especially when it's not delivered properly.
After I began getting a lot of complaints from writers about other editors in my department and smoothing some ruffled feathers, I came up with some dos and don'ts for writing critique letters and emails.
These tips might be useful for teachers, peer groups, or anyone whether you're reviewing someone's writing or job performance. Feel free to add comments and suggestions.
There's a proper way to critique, make comments, and suggest changes to an individual without causing insult, or provoking them into anger or laughter.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Use caps, sentences, and your best grammar. It shows you're a professional. Never start like this:
you said in your article that animals cannot live without air.. this isnt true, they cannot live without oxygen. Look at fish, they live very well without air.
- Start with a greeting. Be as formal or informal as would be appropriate.
Dear Mr. Blanche,
- Introduce yourself:
If you have a title, add it. Then show right away you've been observing. People like to hear their efforts have been noticed.
I'm Sangay Glass, content editor for ... I read your piece (title).
If it's informal, dive in, using the same technique as above.
I just read the psychology term paper you handed in.
- Find some appealing quality of the piece, even if it's stretching.
You have some interesting ideas about the animal mind.
- Don't question the author's intelligence because in your opinion they made a poor word choice. In the first example, I'm sure the author knows O2 is necessary for life. The error is a word malfunction. No need to explain. Get to the point.
I have one small suggestion.
- Make your point clear and simple.
I'm not sure air is the better word for the piece. May I suggest using the word "oxygen" instead?
- Use humor to back up a point if possible.
My little fishies love a good supply of oxygen in the water, but they'd be horrified if I filled their tank with air :-D
- Close the letter.
It's not what you say, it's how you say it.