Friday, 21 December 2012

Criticising Others

Cover - Dickens Hard Times, Public Domain
You can criticise others at your peril. For some people, like tutors and markers, it's a necessary part of their existence. But, in my opinion, you can tell almost anyone almost anything if you do it in the right way.

There can be nothing worse for a writer than someone  patronising them, or talking down to them, or even criticising them inaccurately because of misunderstandings about stylistic and spelling differences due to the other writer's national or cultural background.
There are a large number of differences, for example, between the ways that North Americans uses English and how the English themselves apply spelling and grammar to the language.

I never mind anyone criticising my work, or picking up a spelling mistake. I write a lot of material, sometimes 1/2000-word pieces, several in a week. At some time, something is going to slip through, and I will miss it when I proofread my work. I'm grateful for the opportunity to put it right. But it's not a hanging offence. It doesn't make me a crap writer if I make an occasional typo. I have a great deal of professional experience and don't expect to be treated like a wayward schoolgirl for forgetting a question mark or omitting a word..

When dealing with errors, empathy is a valuable quality. Avoiding blaming the other person is another. You can only discuss the person's work in words that come naturally to you, but maybe pitching your attitude towards "helping" and "suggesting" rather than "making them wrong" helps to get the tone right. Above all, don't rely on "Spellcheck."  Big mistake! Use it as a guide to possible errors maybe, but it is far from a catch-all and doesn't pinpoint national differences of style or spelling. Sometimes, its corrections are completely off-target.

If you are the one being criticised, it can be equally uncomfortable if your critic does not treat you like an adult. If the criticism is valid, then it's best to take it on board and be more careful next time.  But remember, quite apart from the validity of the other person's opinion, if they are arrogant or behave as though they are granting you a royal pardon, well, it's up to you.

Personally, I would just tell them where to get off. :)




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