As a beginning writer, learning to critique the work of your peers in a writing group can seem like a daunting task. Save the chills and stomach cramps for editors and publishers in the future. Criticizing is fairly straightforward and will also help you edit your own work.

Someone once coined the term “Oreo Cookie” in criticism. You intersperse a friendly and critical comment between two positive comments; It tastes better than having to swallow the negative comment alone. Both positive and negative comments improve a writer’s content, build their confidence, and reinforce their motivation to continue in their craft.

When starting your criticism skills, simply focus on three areas: fluency, spelling / grammar, and punctuation. Find a favorite element from each of these areas and learn how to apply it. Always be honest.


The story should move easily and logically.

You need to get involved quickly and stay there until the end.

The facts should be easily connected from paragraph to paragraph.

The dialogue should be realistic, not forced or overly formal.

Spelling / grammar

Always use your spell checker.

Singular nouns need an apostrophe plus an ‘s’ to form a possessive.

Conjunctions need an apostrophe to replace the deleted letter.

Double check your homonyms; Is it ‘bucket’ or ‘pale’? Giving your character a ‘bucket face’ can be embarrassing.


Capitalize the first word of a sentence and only “proper” nouns.

Periods end most sentences.

Always enclose quotation marks in quotation marks.

Keep hyphens, exclamation points, and italics to a minimum.

Pick a favorite motif from each of the three areas above and place it in your critique toolbox. Don’t overload yourself with rules and regulations, but instead focus your energy on honing a few simple critical skills.

Choose from the simple skills above to build stepping stones on your writing path, not obstacles. Learn to accept a certain number of imperfections as part of humanity; even Hemingway and Asimov broke some rules and made mistakes.

Keep writing; practice makes ‘more’ perfect.

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