I'm interested to see what people think each of these processes involves, and how they differ from each other. I've had beta readers that gave me critiques--or what I thought of as critiques. Today I finally realised maybe *my* expectations are the problem. Sure enough, when I googled, I found there are wildly different definitions and expectations for each of these processes. So, with the understanding that none of us will be right or wrong because there is no definitive answer... what's your understand of each process? For me: Critique Probably the hardest one to define. Usually given on a short piece of work, or an excerpt from a larger piece. Feedback is usually detailed and focuses on both the technical and 'artistic' sides of writing: from SPAG to tone to plot. A request for critique is usually open, with the critic deciding where to focus feedback based on where they think the biggest improvements can be made. The writer may ask for specific areas of critique. The critic reads the piece looking for errors and weaknesses. Even if the piece is good, they will find something that can be improved. Alpha read Reading of a draft. An unpolished draft, if you like a bit of tautology. Because the writing isn't polished, feedback will usually be very high-level, brief, and focus only on the 'artistic' side. It will be understood that SPAG and mechanics won't be perfect, but this isn't of concern in a draft. The purpose is to ensure the plot and characters are workable before investing time in polishing the actual words. Saves you polishing 100,000 words only for someone to read it and say "Wow, all these characters are arseholes. The writing was bloody great but I had to stop reading on page three because I was so irritated at these cockwombles. Don't give up your day job, dude." Beta read Reading of a polished piece. Feedback will usually focus on the artistic side: their impressions of the characters, the originality of the plot, continuity, plot holes, and other things you might see mentioned in a typical book review. Differs from an alpha read because the technical side is of a concern but, just like a book review would say "This was so badly written I returned it for a refund," a beta reader shouldn't have to red-pen the whole thing. They may point out the occasional typo, repeated errors, author quirks that become annoying, and any passages that don't make sense or are hard to read. But they won't, or shouldn't be, correcting basic SPAG. If they need to be doing that, the writing should go back to the critique stage. If the writing is technically correct but the reader doesn't like the style (too flowery, too sparse, too much setting description, too little dialogue) they should either say "This isn't my style so I'm unable to finish the beta read" OR mention their preference and then ignore it for the rest of the MS. I don't think it benefits anybody if a beta reader goes through 100,000 words of purple prose and highlights every sentence they think could be pared down. --- This pondering has clarified the difference between a critique and a beta read, for me. It's that a critic goes in looking for fault, and a beta goes in looking to enjoy the book. The beta only notices the things that jump out at him as he reads. The critic examines every word to find something that could be better. Or: A critic is actively looking to find fault. A beta reader is passively forming impressions. At least, that's how I want beta readers to approach my work. I have some wonderful people who are mixed critiquers and betas: they're not scrutinising every word, but they're being more critical than your average pleasure reader would be. What's your view?