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.