Whether your working with beta readers, critique partners, a workshop class, or working on an essay, it’s tough to distinguish between what you didn’t like and what was wrong.
It’s easy to say something is wrong, that it doesn’t feel right. But being able to sort out what you don’t like personally versus what is incorrect can be difficult.
For instance, it can be tough to tell whether you don’t like a character personally (maybe you have a thing about boys with green eyes), or if the character isn’t fully developed. It can be tough to tell whether dialogue is flat, or if you don’t really enjoy banter or small talk.
If you’re giving or receiving feedback, try to get to the bottom of why you don’t like something.
No matter what, that feedback is important. When you’re reading something and you don’t like it—no matter what the reason—the writer wants to know.
The IMPORTANT part is that you clarify for the reader (if you’re doing the editing) or you ask for clarification (if you’re receiving feedback). Let them know if what they’ve done is incorrect or if you just don’t like it.
If you cross out half of a sentence, maybe include a comment that it’s “redundant information”, “improper syntax”, or “too wordy.” These things will help the writer keep an eye out for similar areas where they can improve.
Writers need to have thick skin, so they should be able to handle all sorts and shapes of criticism, but be constructive and kind. Thick skin takes a while to develop, so be sure to explain your criticisms and always include things you liked as well!