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  1. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Reviewing as a Creative Art

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Cogito, Sep 8, 2007.

    It seems to be a growing topic on the site: How to go about reviewing someone's writing.

    Reviewing is not simply a mechanical process. It is every bit as creative a process as writing is; indeed, good self-reviewing skill is an essential adjunct to writing.

    Instead of treating reviewing as a checklist, I believe there is a lot of room to develop reviewing styles, so each reviewer can explore ways to home in on the most critical focus to improve a given piece of writing.

    It is not intuitive. As a recent joiner has correctly pointed out, newcomers often don't know where to begin. The same is true for many veterans of the site as well.

    I see a parallel between the relationship of reviewing to writing and the relationship between software testing and software development. In both cases, they are complementary skills that begin with taking a different mindset. In software testing, the mindset is that you are there to find and remove defects in the software, that a successful test is one which finds a defect. In reviewing, the successful review is one which reveals a weakness in conveying the author's vision to the reader, and suggests ways to improve the communication.

    There is no shortage of books and other resources on writing styles. But the resources on reviewing are much scarcer. I believe we can offer something truly unique here by building a reviewing resource and a pool of expertise in that area.

    It's usually pretty easy to read a piece and decide whether or not you like it. What most people seem to be stuck on is one of two issues:
    1. What specifically about the piece mekes me like it or not like it?
    2. How can I say what I don't like about it without hurting someone's feelings?

    This forum is a place to exchange ideas on how to continually improve the reviewing process in order to maximize the benefit to bot the writer and the reviewer from clear, succinct reviews.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To approach reviewing as a creative art form, begin by considering:

    1. What is the message I want to convey? This is probably some variation on "What would make this a stronger piece of writing?" As part of this, what are the few changes that would make the most difference in acheiving the purpose?

    2. How do I say it? It may be partly a matter of diplomacy, but it is also a matter of clarity and expressiveness, just like any other writing you do.

    3. How can I say it better? Hopefully when you write something to be reviewed, you have read the final piece over a couple times, correct mistakes, and revise whatever is unclear. A review is also a communication, and you should proofread it just like any other writing! Consider changing the order in which you say things for better emphasis or clarity. Di you use any unclear language? Did you make your review interesting?

    In short, approach it like any other piece of writing, with planning, focus, and revision. Make it something you can be proud of!
     
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