CWC Critiquing Guidelines

by Becky Alexander
last updated by Wendy Visser, Apr 2009

The purpose of critiquing is to offer ideas and suggestions to help a writer improve his work. Critiquing sessions should be a productive yet enjoyable experience for the giver and the recipient.  Some guidelines:

  • Presenters must provide signed copies of their work for distribution.
  • The CWC does not comment on CONTENT. All genres regardless of theme are acceptable.
  • Critiquing must be kind, friendly and encouraging with the end result seen as constructive support for each other.
  • You may offer verbal or written comments or both. Written comments should include your name on the presented piece to allow the author the chance to ask you any further questions about your suggestions.
  • Phrasing etiquette: “I think”, or “Perhaps”, “Maybe you could”, or “ I might”, or “ I like the way . . . but” are polite ways of showing respect when making possible improvements to a writer’s work.
  • Do not prolong individual comments. State your point or points as there is only so much time allowable for each writer in order to accommodate all presenters.
  • Presenters should not offer long-winded preambles to their work. A little commentary is acceptable but is often not warranted as pre-presentation talk reduces valuable critiquing time.
  • ALL opinions are valued and should be expressed by EVERYONE. It is disappointing to have work returned after a session with very little feedback especially if that individual tries on a regular basis to give suggestions, etc to others.
  • Characterization, imagery, use of metaphor, simile, alliteration, word choice and use, point of view, use of dialogue, development of plot, theme, mood, suspense etc. are aspects of literature we look for in presented work. Focus on one or two of these aspects to comment on.
  • It’s okay to disagree with a point someone else raises but just say so and why and move on. It is up to the writer to consider all comments and make the final decisions. Group discussion is encouraged but arguing is not. It is the responsibility of the meeting chair to keep the critiquing on track and to ascertain the amount of time given per reader, which depends on the number of presenters.
  • Try to give specific examples of elements you like or why the work appeals to you. “ I think the strong sounding verbs in your piece really add to the theme”. “ I like the title because it hints at the sense of foreboding present in your story”.
  • It is always the work that is being evaluated not the writer. If you don’t like some aspect of the work, try lead-in comments such as, “Perhaps”, “ ‘I don’t think you need to use . . .” “ I might use softer sounding words here to help convey the mood you’ve already created by your use of . . .”
  • Typos, grammar and spelling errors and punctuation suggestions can be highlighted on your copy and returned to the presenter for later correction.

One response to “CWC Critiquing Guidelines

  1. Lee Anne Johnston

    I think that the presenters need to be aware that they are putting their work forth to receive helpful feedback. It is hard not to take what you feel is “criticism” personally at times but having the humility to listen and learn is really crucial to making our work the best it can be. I have rarely witnessed destructive or unkind criticism in the CWC. Most folks bend over backwards to help each writer. I am incredibly grateful for the feedback I have received since joining this wonderful group.

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