1. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    Reluctance to Critique

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Trakaias, Nov 13, 2009.

    I have been reluctant to go into the Review rooms and critique because I have been intimidated by the requirement to spot weaknesses and to know why something works in my critique: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?p=408268#post408268

    But I am not an editor. I don't know much about grammar, I can't tell a person why a sentence doesn't work right because I don't know. I don't know why something doesn't work and I have never felt like I should be the one to say what works or what doesn't because I'm not qualified to say. And I have never read a book like that (published or not).

    This is what I can offer:

    If I read it and like it, I can say I really liked this and why I liked it. Since I only read what I like and it's easy for me to say what I liked and why, and since most readers that I know read like that. I get nervous about saying why I didn't like it and why because its an opinion and most of the time it's not even my genre and so I only read what I like.

    I can't say it doesn't flow here, you put the : in the wrong place, or all these adjectives take from the story, or your pace is too slow, this is how to make it better. Because I don't know! And if I knew I would be doing that for my own stories!

    The point of this is. Will it still matter if I give Critique's and they're not about where it was weak, and what made it flow or not flow? Just about what I liked and why as a reader not an editor or anything close but as a reader who appreciates writing that attracts me or draws me in?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It most certainly does matter.

    The point of the Review Room critiquing workshop is to develop those skills. Not because we expect you to join the submissions editor staff of a major publisher, but because self-critique is an important part of the revision process. You cannot rely on someone else to correct your grammar and word usage, your punctuation, and your spelling. You can't couint on someone else to spot infodumping or lackluster dialogue. You can't expect someone else to point out rambling descriptions that destroy the pace of the story, or marathon sentences that wander all over te lanscape and never come to a point.

    So yes, it matters a great deal. If you don't already possess decent critiquing skills, it's about time you learn them. You will need them, and they will serve you well.

    See also: Why Write Reviews Before Posting My Work?
     
  3. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    Well that's the point! I don't ask for reviews so that someone can help me with grammar, I don't expect that sort of help from anyone except someone who is qualified and has a degree in it.

    When I ask for critique/reviews it's because I want to know what the reader feels and why.

    I am not frustrated at all that I can't immediately post my story. I am frustrated because it sounds like you expect me to point out things that I don't care about as a writer/reader. I can't give what I don't have but I think that what I do have to give isn't useless/worthless and that critique doesn't have to be focused on what's weak.

    My method has never been to rip up someones work. But to listen to the story and if I enjoy it I can tell you why, and if I don't well I generally don't reply if I don't unless I like the story but it's written in a tense that takes away from it.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If that's what you want in a review, other people will want it, too. You'll get a lot of people who claim that saying what you liked about a piece is a bad idea, but it's actually a very good thing to do. It is possible to teach and encourage positive/desired skills, not make a point of correcting negative ones, and still see the negative/unwanted behaviours and habits to disappear. Also, think about this. What is easier, thinking about how to get something right, or thinking about how not to get something wrong? I avoid overtly pointing out mistakes for just that reason, unless it's something to do with grammar.

    When it comes to things that you genuinely dislike, you should still reply. We don't always like to read those reviews about our work, but we need them. We still need to know why someone doesn't like something or thinks something is done poorly even if they don't have suggestions for improvement or it's a simple personal response.
     
  5. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    First, I admire your honesty. And second, you should know that it's not necessarily an easy thing to know and convey what it is exactly that does make something work. So, if you can identify it, your reviews should be golden!

    Editing is great for stories that are about to be submitted, in order to avoid embarrassing errors and to tweak things by considering opinions (which will vary) about word, punctuation, storyline, and structural choices. But, I know many writers (and I'm one of 'em) who find non-editing feedback more usefully insightful than anything. A reader who can tell me what it was about my piece that he or she found interesting and where in the story he or she lost interest or stumbled over something is invaluable to me.

    That said, writers seek out different kinds of feedback, and the reviewer doesn't always (or even usually) know what it is that the writer is seeking. In fact, the writer is sometimes looking for something reviewers aren't going to be able to deliver anyway--sometimes for reasons having to do with issues the writer hasn't even considered and may not want to consider at all. e.g., A writer might want to find out if his character matches some particular qualities, while the reader, in fact, is simply not engaged with the character, the story, or the writing, to begin with and so can't really say if the character matches those qualities, because the reading experience just isn't compelling enough to care if the character posesses one attribute or another.

    I don't know any reason to stretch to supply a writer with input that's irrelevant to how the story is actually read. A review that doesn't reflect some genuine reader reaction--good, bad, or ugly--will distort the reality of how the story reads, in some way. And if the reader's genuine reaction isn't clear to the writer, the takeway can be very misleading. My feeling is this: (1) learn something yourself from writing the review; (2) call it as you read it; and (3) trust the writer to make up his own mind. Finally, if you can't do all three, then consider carefully whether you think the review has any beneficial reason to be delivered to the writer at all.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Regardless, the Review Room is a workshop on constructive critique, and only participants in the workshop are given the privilege to post there. The workshop's purpose is to improve the writing ability of every participant, by making him or her knowledgeable about what makes the writing effective or not.

    If you only want to post your writing for appreciation, or a static rating that only attempts to measure quality without regard to how to improve it, then you can post on your member blog.

    This isn't a site to publish and promote your writing. It's a site for those who are serious about becoming better writers, irrespective of their current writing ability.
     
  7. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    Cogito you keep circling this back around to 'my' writing. It's somewhat understandable except that this was about how I felt about critiquing and why I felt reluctant to post critiques here. You're making assumptions that I don't care about how to improve my work based on my concerns about critiquing and what I value as a way to improve. But again when I posted this, it wasn't about 'my' work, it was about how I felt reluctance to give a fellow writer my own critique.

    Molly:
    You are right when I reread my post I noticed I said easy, and I was thinking about how to explain one of my favourite novels and what made it mesmerizing for me and even if there were any parts that brought me down and I realized it takes time to read and then figure out. When I said easy I meant it comes naturally to me and it is one I am qualified to give.

    And thanks Rei that really helped to hear as well. It was heartwarming and less discouraging both of your words.

    Overall in regards to critiquing here, I expressed my reluctance and my reluctance was validated at least for this site which is fine. I just am surprised that it limits what kind of critique you can receive assuming that only the one kind will make a better most serious writer.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There are many kinds of critiques.

    We all have our strengths and our areas of opportunity in our own work.

    Not all of us are grammar gurus. That is perfectly fine. We have members at this forum from all over the world, not all of whom are native speakers of English and versed in the finer points of syntax and grammar.

    This does not mean that they do not have something of value to offer in the way of a critique of the general work, how the work made them feel, the imagery it brought to mind, the emotions it evoked, the color, the tone, the general ambiance of the piece.

    In fact I am overjoyed to have points of view that come from different cultures to give me fresh perspective.

    I consider it a privilege to get their critiques.

    Anyway, all of these things are immensely valuable!!

    Do not be intimidated when you see critiques that focus on the nut & bolts mechanics of a piece of writing. Often these types of critiques never get into the real meat of the work, the true essence of what was written. Honestly, those kinds of critiques are really a copy edit and really a critique in my opinion, tho I must admit i have written my fair share of those kinds of critiques when I was less confident in giving my opinion about what the author had presented. I focused on the grammar where I felt that I was in my comfort zone.

    Now when I review a piece, I often forgo the grammar (unless it is really bad) and just let the author know there is some cleanup that is required and then go onto what the piece meant to me.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Trakaias, whatever your feelings about giving that kind of critique, it is what the Review Room is about.

    It's like signing up for an oil painting class, then objecting that you would rather be working with pastels.

    Perhaps it's because you didn't realize it was an oil painting class when you walked in. But the hard fact is, 90% of the people who rush straight to the Review Room are thinking one thing: I want to post up my writing and have people tell me it's great. Some will hide it behind "Tell me how much it sucks," but either way, they have no interest in finding out what the Review Room is really for, and in fact simply assume the site exists for people to display their writing.

    I will pose this: Ratings are useless. Most ratings are heavily colored by what kind of writing that reader personally prefers. If the reader likes vampire romances, the most poorly-written bloody romp will get high praise, but a perfectly plotted suspense tale with brilliant characterization will receive a lukewarm response. Furthermore, a rating treats a piece of writing as final. If it has severe flaws, it's doomed, even if those flaws are easily corrected.

    No one is stopping members from posting praise, and in fact some kinds of specific phrase is considered constructive. But gushing compliments and vague recommendations don't really help the writer improve, so they don't count as participation in the workshop.

    Praise and appreciation, combined with recommendations, is the best of both worlds. You encourage the writer, and help him or her improve as well.

    But if you really have no interest in taking part in the kind of critique the workshop focuses upon, the solution is simple: don't participate. You just have to accept that posting your writing there is contingent on participating.

    You can always post your writining in your member blog instead.
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cog, you're making assumptions about her wanting to post her own work, and she has not once mentioned that she wants to post her own stuff. That is not fair.
     
  11. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    If you ask me, which you might not be, but you're getting my 2 cents anyway, I PREFER to know what parts of my story drew you in or what you liked from a reader's perspective. I am writing for readers; not to hob-nob with other literary types.

    But on the flip side, hearing "I liked it good story," provides absolutely no benefit what so ever.

    Just be specific in what you really liked, and not a general over-all kind of thing.
    A few examples:
    (Description A) was really good. I really felt like I could feel the train rolling down the tracks.
    (Character B) I could really relate to this character. He had a good voice that I could imagine in my mind.
    (Plot X) That was the worst story line I've ever read. There wasn't really any conflict to keep me interested.

    Those kinds of things I think, as a writer, give me the most insight as to what I'm doing right or wrong.

    Take some time and read around the net on the nuts and bolts of writing. Then, when you start noticing some of those things in other people's work, you can point them out.

    If I were you I'd start with the posts in Cogito's blog(linked in his signature) and work your way out from there. They are a good starting point and introduce some of the basics.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but I already addressed that:
    We don't go in and remove reviews that don't meet the criteria for constructive critique. But only constructive critiques count toward the minimum requirements if someone want to post their own work.

    The requirements do not apply if someone has no intention of posting their own writing.
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Well, IMO, this would make you a beginning stage writer. A writer who has not gotten to a point in learning the CRAFT of writing to be able to critically think about how each sentence works as a part of the whole paragraph, how each paragraph works as part of a whole piece.

    Flow, pacing, character development, plot lines, conflict/drama/resolution and all the things that make a story a good story are things as a writer that you need to learn how to identify, how to tear it apart, and how to fix it. That is what the Review Room is really for. To practice without judgment for both the writer and the critiquing writer.

    While as of late I haven't made it into the Review Room due to life stuff, I do like to help out my fellow writers with some things I see that could be improved, while at the same time helping my own writing skills by being able to identify things that pose a problem in writing.

    Spelling and Grammar, well, sure not all of us are experts here. But with more practice every writer slowly becomes better at SPaG. Sometimes being a creative type of person can also make memorizing things with spelling and grammar more difficult, since memorization is a right brain activity and creativity is a left brain activity. Sometimes left brainers aren't so good at memorizing things like that. That's why there are plenty of editors out there who aren't that good at writing creative stories, but are excellent editors/readers.

    Maybe instead of posting your critiques all the time, if you aren't feeling comfortable with responses you might get, you could read through someone's story, or posting, and write the critique in a word doc just for you. Work on identifying problem areas, things that you think don't work. Then compare your personal critique with those posted by others.

    Also reading other's critiques of postings help a lot too. You can see how other people view something, see why they think something didn't flow and if you agree/disagree with their opinion.

    Being able to see problems is a very essential part of being a writer. Not just seeing it in others writings, but to be able to see it in your own. You can't expect to improve your skills of crafting a story if you don't know how to tear it apart and point out what works and what doesn't. Those are some of the basics of being able to write.

    And to worry that you may offend the recipient of the critique...well sometimes it happens, because you can't please everyone. Some people aren't hardened enough to take constructive criticism, where others will thank you for your effort in the critique and use some of what you said to improve their writing.

    Just saying "I liked it." or "I couldn't read this." isn't going to help you or the writer. Being able to say WHY you liked it or didn't will help you both. By exploring the WHY is where you find the elements that make good writing possible.
     
  14. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Bluebell makes a great point about reading other people's critiques. I wasn't sure how to go about it either, but after reading different articles on good critiquing and reading other people's critiques, I feel I have the hang of it. And I'm starting to notice my mistakes a bit better too, but the ones I miss my fellow critique can assist me with :)
     
  15. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    I've the same problem the OP has with criticism...as a matter of fact english is not even my native language, therefore I don't feel confortable with the idea of telling native speakers how they should write in their own language.

    So far all I did was to post some comments on the stories, and ask questions about their developments , is that considered "constructive criticism" as well?
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but no. The one critique you have posted to date doesn't come close. This is what we expect: Constructive Critiques
     
  17. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where has she said that she wants to post her own writing?
     
  18. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    As someone was saying beforehand there are other types of reviews. You do not have to be a reviewer of grammar and spelling. The SPAG reviewer. You could be a different kind of reviewer.
    I know I pretend to be the audience and give out critique as if I were an audience reviewing a piece of work. I tell them whether the plot is okay, the setting is good, did I like the characters. Then I take on my writing perspective of it and tell them how it could work.
    You don't have to be a SPAG reviewer, you can be an Audience Reviewer, or Setting Reviewer, etc.
    Don't be intimidated. Find your niche of reviewing and go for it.
     
  19. hoodwinked
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    hoodwinked Member

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    I agree with Leaka.

    Have you ever watched one of those cooking shows? Like, Iron Chef?

    The chefs cook up this huge fancy dinner, and then the judges taste everything and tell the chefs what they think.

    "This is wonderful. I love the blend of (fancy spice) with the (special wine). It's a nice contrast with the (sweet dish)."

    "This is horrible. The (meat-I've-never-heard-of) is too bland because the (insert oil) was (something). And the use of the (herb) is amateur because it creates a bitter taste when combined with the (some juice)."

    Now, here at home, my dad's the chef. He doesn't cook such fancy dishes, but he asks us if we like them or not. We say yes, or no... but that doesn't satisfy him. He has to know if it's dry, or if we don't like the cranberry juice he marinated the pot roast with...

    Me and my mom, we're not those fancy judges and can't tear apart the dish and tell him exactly what makes a dish the best or not. But, we can tell Dad that we don't like his pea soup because the peas are too hard. Next time, he'll know to... do what ever it is to make the peas softer...

    My point is--like everyone else has said--you don't have to be an expert. If I post something, and you simply tell me you liked my characters because they acted real, but hated my plot because it's unrealistic and all over the place... I would be fine with that. I would know that what I got going for my characters is good, but that, when I rewrite, I need to pay attention to where my plot is going.

    Good luck, and don't be afraid to review; if you're trying hard to help, who will complain?
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Those kinds of reviews have their place. Their place is in advising consumers whether or not a finished project is worth plunking down their hard-earned cash for.

    But that is NOT the kind of critique that the Review Room workshop is about.

    The Review Room is for constructive critique that helps the writer improve his or her writing.

    It doesn't have to be correcting grammar or spelling. In fact, we truly hope that the writer will correct such things before posting a draft for critique. Your comments can then be about the quality of dialogue, or confusing sentences, or over/under-description is specific paragraphs or verses. They can be about consistency or richness of characters. Once the writer is proficient in avoiding simple SPaG errors, the critiquing can be fun and challenging, getting into the more subtle aspects of writing.

    Every piece of writing can be improved. And developing that skill is what the Review Room exists for.

    If you want to give consumer reviews, you can. Just don't expect them to be credited toward the participation requirement for the workshop.

    The Review Room is for constructive critique that helps the writer improve his or her writing.
     
  21. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    ^^^ I agree with Cog, and that was what I was trying to say as well. If the writer is putting their best foot forward, they will have already corrected, to their best ability, the simple SPaG issues. We all have times when we misplace a comma, or misuse or mistype a word and may not have seen it in our proofreading. But when the story starts out with a disclaimer of " I know the spelling and grammar is horrible, but please tell me how you like the story." I usually don't read them, because I know a writer that is putting a disclaimer up like that isn't probably ready for a real critique.

    Even if a story doesn't come with a disclaimer, but within the first two paragraphs is riddled with spelling errors and grammar mishaps, I know the writer wasn't trying their best and probably will just end up angry with any critique that isn't praising them as the next great writer. I've seen plenty of postings on here from people who just hope to have their egos pet. Then they get all sorts of bent out of shape by critiques that point out their obvious mistakes. I don't critique these types anymore either.

    I am actually really, really picky on who I critique. I'm not going to spend two hours reading through someone's posting to really digest it, note what does and doesn't work, then post up a thorough critique. I'm not going to waste my time on someone who just wants an ego petting. I'll donate my time to someone who truly wants to learn, to have a discussion on why they disagree with my views or why they agree.

    When I see that the writer hasn't even put in the slightest effort in proofreading, then I know it's not worth wasting my time. Thus I don't critique those.

    I agree with Cog that customer style reviews are next to worthless in the review room. They don't help either person and provide nothing to the dialog of the craft of writing.

    Writing is a skill, a learned craft. It's not something most people are born with as an innate ability. Much like most singers who, even with born talent to sing on key, they still use vocal coaches to improve range and pitch. A person might be born with the ability to spin a good tale, but they still have to learn to form it into a readable story. That is a learned skill, not an inborn one.

    If you want to be a real writer, one who actually gets published, then you have to learn the craft of writing. While the story is an important element, the writing is the most important part. A story idea can be the best ever thought of, but if the writing is poor it will end up tossed in the slush pile to collect dust. A not so great story, if the writing is excellent, poses more of a chance to get published, because the writing is the most important part.

    Thus, the Review Room is meant to help develop all aspects of the Craft of writing. The ability to write logically, creatively, with good flow, pacing, character development, and even choice of wording all come before the actual story itself. The story itself is the secondary part of the critique process. So if you are uncomfortable with the critiquing the writing part, you should save your reviews for Amazon and Barns and Nobles, and not bother in the Review Room.
     
  22. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Well see sometimes when I put a work up for reviewer, it's I need something other then SPAG. We become teachers when all we focus on is the SPAG issues of a piece of writing and it appears to be the semi-common thing in the review room. But me as I writer when I reread my stuff over and over again I can already tell my SPAG issues and go immediately to correcting it.

    Sometimes the Review Room requires a different kind of reviewer for each sort of level of writing. Someone who has been doing it a long time, may already know their SPAG after rereading...so shouldn't we assume that is the case and work and form on other bits of their writing?
    Someone who has been doing less then everyone else who may not know their SPAG issues, they are what we should be focusing SPAG reviews on.

    I assume that someone who has been writing for a long time, already knows their SPAG. Sometimes I'll point something out, if it's extremely blaring. But for the most part I think a review should focus on all bits of writing.

    People have different method of writings and different methods of writing style. So a reviewer should also have the same qualities as the writers, reviewing with different methods for each writing style and level.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Leaka, if you understand your SPaG issues, then you should fix them before posting if you don't want them commented on.

    If you expect to be a writer, you cannot ignore SPaG, nor should you expect a reviewer to ignore them. A submissions editor certainly wouldn't.

    But this thread is about what kinds of critiques are appropriate to qualify for the critiquing requirement. If a writer posts a piece of writing riddled with SPaG problems, it is certainly appropriate for a critiquer to assume that the writer needs help in that area.
     
  24. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    To catch your SPAG. You have to reread your work. What you fixed earlier may actually not sound the same.
    Editing process takes many looks from yourself. I want just more then SPAG help Cogito.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then reread your work! You are asking people to take the time to critique your writing, and you can't take the time to proofread it first? Really, now!

    And for the last time, that is not the topic of this thread.
     

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