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View Full Version : Is it EVER okay to correct a Critique?



JRTurner
10-30-2008, 07:34 PM
Hey all,

I've been doing the internet writing group thing for nearly a decade and I find that no matter how nice I try to be, or how vague I try to be, there will always be someone at some point who throws a fit about this.

But here's my dilemma:

The new author is getting bad information. As an example, the critiquer suggested a sentence structure to correct passive voice--with a dangling participle. Or say the critiquer is advising the new writer to start the story with an info-dump prologue.

In the past I've created new threads about how to share backstory correctly or fix dangling participles, but sometimes that's not always an option--though it's my preferred option.

Sometimes I've offered my thoughts without ever once referencing the other critique--as a sort of way to show two opinions and then *hope* that the new writer chooses the correct one.

In the end, however, when I don't address (even privately) the mistaken information directly--the critiquer continues to offer the same bad advice.

Which then makes me think it's unfair to the critiquer to let them continue thinking the information is correct, when it isn't. I mean, if someone reading my posts noticed I never usedspacestoseparatemywords and I couldn't figure out why no one wanted to 'talk' to me, I'd be grateful if someone helped me write better.

But not everyone is. :( So, that's my question:

Is it EVER okay to correct a critique?

ChaosTitan
10-30-2008, 07:36 PM
I don't think it's good form to correct a critique in public. However, if you know the critter is continuing to offer incorrect advice, contact them privately to discuss it. Calling someone out on a public board often leads to squabbling and hurt feelings (and the occasional flame war).

JRTurner
10-30-2008, 07:44 PM
Oh most definitely--never do I ever want to "humiliate' someone who's really trying to be helpful. That would just shut them down entirely and you're right, it would cause flame wars, etc. I've been in the situation though, where even after what I thought was a pleasant private discussion, the same advice was re-offered.

Normally in very large public writing groups, it doesn't make sense to bother about something like that because writers usually get a TON of advice. When it's more intimate and/or private though, it can........

Wait.....

Do you ever have a headslapping V-8 moment?

Maybe I just needed to get this out of my head to see the real solution here (nearly 10 years after the fact, doh!)

I could contact the NEW writer and make sure they know where to find the right information--send them a link, or what have you. Or is that underhanded? Ugh!

Maybe I shouldn't involve myself at all. Maybe it's important for a new writer to learn how to distinguish bad from good, right?

But then I remember the bad advice I got in the beginning and all the rewrites it caused. :(

I think I need more coffee :)

CaroGirl
10-30-2008, 07:52 PM
IMO, it's okay to point out a difference of opinion from another critiquer. If you see a correction you disagree with, I don't see a problem with saying something like, "I disagree that the passive construction needs to be replaced in this case. It worked for me as it was, but it's your call."

To me, that's mature, straightforward, and doesn't really invite conflict, while allowing you to voice your objection on a misguided critique.

ChaosTitan
10-30-2008, 07:57 PM
I could contact the NEW writer and make sure they know where to find the right information--send them a link, or what have you. Or is that underhanded? Ugh!

Maybe I shouldn't involve myself at all. Maybe it's important for a new writer to learn how to distinguish bad from good, right?

But then I remember the bad advice I got in the beginning and all the rewrites it caused. :(

I think I need more coffee :)

There's nothing wrong with contacting the noob and pointing them toward resources they can get information from (like AW, for example). There is as much good advice as bad out there on the web, and everyone has their own opinion, especially when it comes to writing style, grammatical choices, etc...

In the end, though, it's always up to the writer to look at the advice and decide for him/herself.

mscelina
10-30-2008, 08:07 PM
It's part of the learning process for a young writer to distinguish the valuable and not-quite-as-valuable portions of a critique. It's a necessary skill. Without that ability, critiques lose their usefulness. *shrug* This may sound a little harsh, but without the skill of critical analysis a writer won't profit at all from a critique--whether it's 'right' or not.

Red-Green
10-30-2008, 08:11 PM
I agree with CaroGirl: the real trick is not to think of it as "correcting." Everyone has different opinions and you can easily, politely, and publicly chime in with your differing opinion. No need to "correct" the person you disagree with.

maestrowork
10-30-2008, 08:14 PM
I wouldn't do it in public. Pull the writer aside and tell her that the other person's advice is wrong, and point her to resources (such as grammar books, etc.) to back yourself up. Tell her what to look for: passive voice, dangling participles, etc. It's harder to convince someone about info-dump, but there are many places they can learn about it, including AW.

maestrowork
10-30-2008, 08:16 PM
I agree with CaroGirl: the real trick is not to think of it as "correcting." Everyone has different opinions and you can easily, politely, and publicly chime in with your differing opinion. No need to "correct" the person you disagree with.

But the thing is the other person is "wrong" so you will come off as correcting her. It's not just an opinion. Dangling participles, for example, is just wrong. If you tell someone: "compel is spelled with one L, not two" it's not just an opinion, but a fact, and thus it's a correction.

In that case, I'd say don't "humiliate" the other writer in public, but instead correct her in private.

Red-Green
10-30-2008, 08:24 PM
Considering critiques offer corrections to writers all the time, I can't fathom how having facts in one's critique corrected would be humiliating. Following that guideline, I don't know how I'd ever do an honest critique on a public board. Or expect to get one.

CaroGirl
10-30-2008, 08:30 PM
But the thing is the other person is "wrong" so you will come off as correcting her. It's not just an opinion. Dangling participles, for example, is just wrong. If you tell someone: "compel is spelled with one L, not two" it's not just an opinion, but a fact, and thus it's a correction.

In that case, I'd say don't "humiliate" the other writer in public, but instead correct her in private.
This critiquer would have be pretty thin-skinned if she couldn't accept that her advice was misspelled! Like you say, that's not an opinion; it's fact. It might even just have been a slip of the keyboard. Why should you let that go any more than you'd let a spelling mistake go if it were made by the OP in their original post for critique? If it were me, I'd say, "oops, thanks for pointing out my mistake," and move on.

Would you be satisfied with knowing you just gave someone bad advice? What if the critiquer came back a month from that time with more knowledge, read his original critique and then felt badly for giving poor advice? Everyone can benefit from some gentle direction in a critique discussion, and yes, it can be a discussion, not just a set of unconnected posts. Some of the best critiques of my own work came from interaction among the critiquers who were of differing opinion on my work.

DeleyanLee
10-30-2008, 08:38 PM
Have you considered starting a conversation something along the lines of:

"I found your advice to Susie very interesting, since it's not the same as I've been taught. Could you give me some references so I could understand where you're coming from better?"

This makes it non-confrontational, even in public, and if they take offense as the request, the bad mojo's on their head, not yours. It would show any newbie that it's a good idea to dig digger at the validity of advice before just accepting as gospel. It might also give others a chance to back you up, if they're feeling as frustrated as you are.

Open discussion is generally a good way to learn--and the people who need it might actually do the learning.

Edmontonian
10-30-2008, 09:01 PM
Hello,

It is ALWAYS okay to correct a critique, especially if it is an obvious mistake or misinterpretation or a factual error.

Now, if you should do the correction or not or how to go about doing it, that will depend on the specifics of the situation. One set of circumstances may require a different approach than another one, so it's up to you, who most likely will know better the situation and the circumstances.

Thanks,

ED

dpaterso
10-30-2008, 09:12 PM
Yes. I'd address the critiquer directly and give them opportunity to debate the mistake so they hopefully modify their own advice. Even if they don't agree, the writer who got critiqued will have seen your suggestion.

-Derek

Karen Duvall
10-30-2008, 09:19 PM
Often public critiques on boards are open to everyone to review, like SYW, and there are many new writers who hang out on these boards to get educated about writing. I know of a few at AW who do this. They're not critiquing or posting work to critique, they're reading and absorbing the information critiques provide.

So in this case, I think it's wise to somehow make the correction public. You wouldn't have to address the mistake directly at the person who made it, but make a general comment about whatever it is and not name names or point fingers.

I'm out of my mind with grief over writers who misinterpret the meaning of passive voice and share their "great wisdom" with other new writers in their critique. This has to stop. I want to start a campaign or something. Anyway, there's this misconception that whenever was or were is used in a sentence, it's passive voice. Aargh!

Momento Mori
10-30-2008, 09:27 PM
JRTurner:
the critiquer suggested a sentence structure to correct passive voice--with a dangling participle.

I'll put my hand up to having made a similar suggestion once. Thankfully someone else in the group called me on it, which was good because I might not have realised.


JRTurner:
Sometimes I've offered my thoughts without ever once referencing the other critique--as a sort of way to show two opinions and then *hope* that the new writer chooses the correct one.

I think that's the best way of doing it, perhaps by phrasing the second opinion so that it corrects the information in the first without coming out and saying that it's wrong.

MM

maestrowork
10-30-2008, 09:30 PM
All I'm saying is there's a diplomatic and nonintrusive way of doing it, especially in face-to-face situation (and not online crits). I disagree and correct other's advice all the time, when it's wrong (for example, calling a 'participle' gerund or saying "was" is passive -- and then someone would say, "I don't really care what it's called -- I know what it means" *sigh*). Still, the point is not to "correct" the critter directly, but indirectly or in private, putting the focus on the person being critiqued (and let the critter realize her mistakes indirectly). Try not to say, "but you're just wrong." There are ways to bring forth the correct information (and supply resources to back yourself up) without confrontations.

Phaeal
10-30-2008, 09:52 PM
I'm out of my mind with grief over writers who misinterpret the meaning of passive voice and share their "great wisdom" with other new writers in their critique. This has to stop. I want to start a campaign or something. Anyway, there's this misconception that whenever was or were is used in a sentence, it's passive voice. Aargh!

I'll join you, Karen! This is my pet peeve, too, and whenever and wherever I see my beloved "to be" under attack, I will speak out! Poor innocent "I am the father" and "He was running when the bomb went off" abused as passive! And why should even the true passive be a universal pariah? Reach out across the aisle, you Activicans, and embrace a few Passivocrats! Some of them are just what the prose may need!

Dale Emery
10-30-2008, 11:19 PM
In my local writing group we often give feedback on the feedback. That conversation is almost always enlightening, and often people change their minds as a result.

Most of the time we think of our feedback not as correction, but as information about how we responded to the writing (or to someone else's feedback). We tend to think about correction only when we're discussing something that can be settled by citing a manual of style. Everything else is a matter of reader reaction, so that's how we express it.

Dale

SPMiller
10-30-2008, 11:57 PM
I have corrected people who criticized my work on several occasions, and I don't hesitate to do so in the thread itself. Usually, they just don't understand the grammatical component they're trying to discuss. For example, they might not grasp the difference between passive voice and perfect aspect.

Correcting them doesn't change the fact that they don't like what I did, regardless of whether they use the right terminology or not.

dawinsor
10-31-2008, 12:01 AM
The issue isn't offering the writer different advice in public then. It's deciding whether to offer that same advice to the critter who was wrong, in public or private.

I think if you offer your own crit in public, the other critter is likely to see it. At least, I always read other crits of stuff I've critted, just to see how they might differ from me. That means the other critter is getting the information. They can take it or not, but then, they'd do that if you contacted them directly too. I think the trick is to bolster your own crit in some way, maybe with references or links. That lets everyone educate themselves if they're willing.

RobJ
10-31-2008, 12:24 AM
Is it EVER okay to correct a critique?
If you don't correct something that you know is wrong, it's not just the author who may be take poor advice, others who read the thread might do so too. If you offer a correction in private, those others don't get to read it. Also, your correction could be wrong - it happens, and if offered in private no-one gets the opportunity to correct your error.

You owe it to the author, who came looking for sound advice, and to others reading the thread, to point out something that you know to be wrong.

You owe it to the person who offered the poor advice to respect their sincere attempt to help, and to highlight the error in a manner that doesn't cause them to lose face.

We're all here to learn.

Cheers,
Rob

Bufty
10-31-2008, 12:39 AM
Agreed -particularly on an open Forum where any anonymous Tom Dick or Bufty should not feel able to critique safe in the knowledge that no-one is going to call them to book if the advice is completely misguided.


If you don't correct something that you know is wrong, it's not just the author who may be take poor advice, others who read the thread might do so too. If you offer a correction in private, those others don't get to read it. Also, your correction could be wrong - it happens, and if offered in private no-one gets the opportunity to correct your error.

You owe it to the author, who came looking for sound advice, and to others reading the thread, to point out something that you know to be wrong.

You owe it to the person who offered the poor advice to respect their sincere attempt to help, and to highlight the error in a manner that doesn't cause them to lose face.

We're all here to learn.

Cheers,
Rob

JRTurner
10-31-2008, 03:55 AM
Great comments everyone!! :) I see all the arguments here that I was dealing with in my own head, so at least I know I'm not crazy. I guess it comes down to whether or not I'm willing to risk the possibility that the critiquer may respond with hostility no matter how politely, sincerely or indirectly I offer the correction, and if I'm less willing to see a new writer (or a magnitude of lurking writers) walk away with bad information. Which in most cases, is where I end up--choosing to correct as respectfully as possible.

I think too, that if you're truly interested in being supportive and helpful, that does shine through--just like it shines through when someone's trying to gratify their ego at the expense of others. Intention does have impact :)

Thank you all for helping me sort through this some more!!