|Issue #55 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Arwee
[ Table of Contents ]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links
[ About this Newsletter ]
Ever received a review where the individual who wrote it sounded like they were really struggling through the piece? Did their comments come off sounding a little harsh? Reviewing’s not supposed to hurt but why do some reviews make us feel bad? Chances are, you may have encountered a reviewer who didn’t know where to establish the boundary between being a critic and being abusive.
[ Letter from the Editor ]
There’s a myth among some reviewing circles that only reviews containing criticism is useful to a writer. Not only is this a misconception but it may also lead to one of my least favorite reviewing attitudes: the meaner the reviewer, the better. These mean reviews usually contain a lot of good information and criticism, but there’s a difference between being a critic and being abusive.
True, the real world isn’t covered in fluffy bunnies (though imagine how adorable it’d be if it was), and writers aspiring to become published need to get used to the idea of having their work criticized by professional editors and later on, by book critics. But, it should be noted that most of the individuals on this site are neither professional editors nor book critics. Most of us are writers who are either writing for fun, writing to improve, writing for therapy, or writing for publication. So how harsh are you supposed to be when you’re surrounded by your peers? Well, as harsh as you want to be. But, and here’s the catch, harsh doesn’t mean cruel.
So, what’s the difference? How do you tell between someone who is expressing an opinion about your work and someone who is just being unnecessarily cruel? The answer is simple but determining where the threshold lies is more difficult. Basically, ask yourself this if you get a really harsh review:
Is the reviewer criticizing my writing or criticizing me?
If someone is using language in their review that attacks you personally, that isn’t criticism, that’s abuse. No professional editor or book critic in the literary industry would slander a writer personally. True, they might say some really critical things about the writing, the grammar, the ideas, the execution, the list goes on, but I have never once seen a professional critic say something against a writer’s personality.
Alright, that’s fine and dandy, but how do you tell the difference? I’m sure most of you have gotten reviews where a reviewer said something so tersely that it sounded rude or overly harsh. Perhaps that’s just how the person phrases their sentences, maybe they were having a bad day and were unfairly taking it out on you, there’s tons of reasons why a comment in a review might come off sounding bad but it’s not always abusive.
Let’s take a look at a comment that’s not necessarily nice but isn’t necessarily abuse either:
I found this work practically unreadable. The prose is sloppy, the characters are one dimensional, and the title isn’t capitalized properly.
Ouch. Imagine if you got something like that as a review. I’d be angry and my feelings would definitely be hurt. Whoever wrote this should probably take a chill pill and relax a little. But take note that they didn’t say anything about the writer, just the piece. Sure, there’s a million ways for this to be more nicely worded and any writer who received this would feel bad, but it’s not necessarily abusive.
Let’s get to an example that is abusive just for comparison:
What was going through your mind when you wrote this mess? Your prose sounds like something a kid just learning how to spell would string together on an off day. Don’t even get me started on those characters you have. They’re boring. Are the only people you know this boring? Is that why you can’t come up with good characters? Why didn’t you capitalize your title properly? Go back to school and learn some grammar.
Double ouch. Note that in this example, the reviewer did essentially say what they thought about the writing. But in the process, they also ended up insulting the writer by questioning their intelligence, their personal life, and even their friends. Whether or not this abusive reviewer does this for fun or thinks it’s helpful in some way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how you react. Don’t feel bad if you got something like this. If someone can’t form a review that doesn’t insult a person they don’t even know, then they aren’t worth your time.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to ignore people who go out of their way to be abusive towards you. The internet is a pretty harsh place sometimes, but you don’t have to put up with jerks. If you do happen to come across an abusive reviewer there are a few things you can do:
If someone like this reviews you, chances are that they may treat someone else the same way or have already done so. To save someone else from getting a horrible review like this, make sure you report this person so they can be dealt with. You can use this form: "Submit A Harassment Complaint" .
WDC has an ignore list function that you can slap this person onto and never have to hear from them again. You can access this function by going to My Account > Block/Ignore Members.
No matter how tempting it is to reply to this individual and give them a piece of your mind, do not contact them. A lot of people on the net, for one reason or another, get joy out of making others miserable by starting needless arguments. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to fall into their trap. And most of the time, it is a trap that will only make you feel worse.
It is important that we understand the difference between a plain old harsh review that could have been worded more nicely and an abusive review. You don’t want to report someone who isn’t doing anything wrong. So always remember to ask yourself, Is the reviewer criticizing my writing or criticizing me?
[ Editor’s Picks ]
[ Ask and Answer ]
If you have any questions, comments, general suggestions, or suggestions for editor’s pick (even your own work! ), please send them to me. I’ll be more than happy to feature them in the next newsletter and address them to the best of my ability. It should be noted that if you send me e-mails, I will ask to use your comments in the Ask and Answer section.
J. A. Buxton Wrote re: “BrE and AmE”:
I thoroughly enjoyed this reviewing newsletter since it cleared up something that's been bothering me for years. In school back in New England, it seems we were taught the British way of putting punctuation marks OUTSIDE quotation marks and ending parenthesis.
When I started writing and posting here a few years ago, I was scolded by many WDC members for the way I punctuated. So, I changed to hush them up, even though my punctuation feels odd.
Now I know that England and New England ways were the same, at least back in the 1950's. Thank you for clearing this up for me.
Glad I could help. There's a lot of little things about both styles that can throw a lot of people off. And I'm sure I've just barely scratched the surface with this newsletter so it's totally understandable how any of this stuff can confuse people or make them think someone's doing something wrong. I used to be told to change my style too, then I did and now I want to go back to BrE.
Lynn McKenzie Wrote re: “BrE and AmE”:
I'm sorry to be so long replying to your Newsletter. Late or not, I wanted you to know that I found it extremely helpful. I knew a lot of the differences, but not all of them by a long shot. Cultural references can be difficult, too; it took years before I discovered what the nurse "selling poppies from a tray" was all about in "Penny Lane", for instance.
Ah, the cultural things in life. I love finding out little cultural tid bits like that. For example, up until a few months ago, I didn't know what a crayfish was. Ah well, that's all a part of what makes life interesting. Thanks for writing in.
[ Useful Links ]
"Feedback Central" – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
"Reviewing Newsletters" – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.