Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Critique Is Not A Bad Word

kate messner Many people see the word “critique” and seem to secretly replace it in their mind with “criticism”.

When I look in my dictionary, I find this for “criticism”: “Disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings”.

And, I find this for “critique”: “A serious examination and judgment of something”.

When I look in my Etymology Dictionary (showing the root meanings of words), I find both words coming from the word “crisis” which also gets a bad rap in common usage. Crisis actually means “to separate, decide, judge”.

Oh, yeah, our attitudes regularly warp words’ meanings. Criticism and critique are both instances of dealing with a crisis. Kinda hard to shake the bad vibes off that word “crisis”, eh?

Authors regularly deal with crises, regularly face criticism, regularly seek critique

I found a post on The Stenhouse Blog featuring Kate Messner, a teacher and author who said, “…I find myself on all sides of the critique fence—giving critiques myself, teaching kids how to critique one another’s work, and receiving constructive critiques from my writing group members and my editors.”

She goes on to reveal a letter from her editor with annotations explaining how the act of separating, deciding, and judging helped her in writing The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

Whether your a teacher, writer, manager, parent, or social media participant, I feel you’ll get some wonderful perspectives on the critique process by reading the full post: How to critique writing.

Kate closes the delightfully warm analysis of her editor’s critique with this: “Remember, real revision takes time, and it can be messy, but the results are well worth the long trail of marked-up manuscripts and sticky notes they leave behind!”
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10 responses to “Critique Is Not A Bad Word

  1. Karla Telega July 30, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Thanks for that link, Alexander. Objective opinions of your work are immensely valuable, but delivering them in a way that builds up is a skill.


  2. chazdesimone July 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Alexander–“critique” is not a bad word at all. If it were not for critiquing, whether one’s own creations or those of others (especially underlings) improvement would not take place. I welcome critique of my own work, from my colleagues, friends, and especially clients. In fact, I request it. I also demand and appreciate criticism, although “critique” is such a prettier sounding word!


    • Alexander M Zoltai July 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm


      Tell me: Is there in visual arts something similar to the close association of “critique” & “criticism”–not a direct thing but the relationship between twin concepts, used primarily in antithetical ways, yet arising from the same root?


  3. tsonoda148 July 31, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Good post! Constructive criticism of my writing is welcome, however I do become a bit put-off when the critique comes from arrogance. Some writers may think they have the right to deliver this arrogant criticism, but they are mistaken. Criticism of my writing in order to help me improve or better understand a point, however, is helpful and keeps me on my toes.


  4. Pingback: Writers On Writing ~ A List That Can Inspire « Notes from An Alien

  5. hellaheaven August 4, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I loved your blog and I’ll download your book. I have a BA in literature and did critiques for a newspaper but I stopped. When I found myself having to give a “sentence” to a book without knowing the author and his/her work in four days I said “No way!”. One of my friends is still there and creates a lot of polemics.
    I could never write about an author, or anything I dislike. It makes no sense for me and is one of the reasons I didn’t follow the academical career.
    Yes, there are criticism in visual arts too, my husband is an artists but it is different than in literature.
    Nice meeting you and I wish you all the best.


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 5, 2011 at 1:13 am

      Ana, so glad you found this blog :-)

      I appreciate what you say about academic and “nearly-blind” criticism

      I’d love to hear more about the difference between literary and visual art critique.


  6. Pingback: Critique Groups are Supposed to Help, Not Hurt « susansheehey

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