MPL Writers Group

A Basic Guide To Giving Constructive Criticism

The art of giving and receiving constructive criticism in writing is not straightforward but it is an important step to improve one’s writing and building rapport with fellow writers. Constructive criticism creates a support network between fellow writers and-in some cases-an editor. Moreover, constructive criticism can help give writers suggestions to improve their Work In Progress (WIP) in significant ways.

Before giving constructive criticism, it is important to read through all of the WIP first. After reading the entire work, you’ll have a better idea of what parts of the WIP will need and what type of feedback you’ll need to give. This influences the level of feedback that the reviewer can give to help the writer. The feedback level can make a major difference if the WIP is a first draft or if it is the final product for review.

When reviewing, offer specific and sincere praise coupled with clear and specific criticism. Do not bully the writer or be condescending because that will make you look like a jerk and convince the writer that they should never finish or release their WIP. Ask yourself this question: would you give yourself negative comments about your work, and tell yourself that you should never, ever again? Of course not! 

Here are some recommended questions to ask when it comes to reviewing the writer’s work:


Top Priority Questions:

  • Does the WIP achieve its goal? Is it well-suited and appropriate to the audience?
  • Is the flow of information logical and cohesive?
  • Is the piece easy to read through?


You also have minor issues that can be looked at and commented on after the major pieces of the WIP are reviewed for constructive criticism. Focus on the “big picture,” or the major parts such as  regarding the WIP’s audience, its goal to the reader, its information, etc. before diving into spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


Minor Issues To Be Looked At After The Big Picture:

  • Spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Syntax
  • Wordiness, passive, tone, etc.


One piece of criticism that absolutely needs to be avoided is what is called the “compliment sandwich.” A compliment sandwich is a piece of negative criticism that is sandwiched by two pieces of positive feedback, which do not give too much insight to the writer and would sound passive-aggressive without diving in on what can be improved for the writer’s benefit.

Below is a visual representation:

Compliment sandwiches send mixed messages and are considered unprofessional. They are also demeaning and two-faced to the writer. Avoid using compliment sandwiches at all cost!

Giving constructive criticism will not only make you a hero, but it will help the writer on their journey. It will also help you give writing insight on your own WIPs. The best writers are those who support each other!



Additional Resources

Bubbles – How To Give Better Feedback On Writing: 10 Tips

Grammarly – How To Give Constructive Writing Feedback

Now Novel – How To Give Constructive Feedback On Writing That Rocks

TCK Publishing – How To Give Constructive Criticism: 6 Tips And Examples For Helpful Feedback