ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Commercial & Creative Writing

How to Give Your Honest Opinion About Another Writer's Writing

Updated on October 2, 2013
SylviaSky profile image

Sylvia Sky, M.A. is an astrologer, tarot professional, and author who writes about spiritual matters.

Giving Your Honest Opinion -- Diplomatically

When you have been asked for feedback on a fellow writer’s work-in-progress, honesty is not just the best policy: It is the only policy. It has two simple rules:

  • It is always wrong to tell a fellow writer that his work is good when it isn’t.
  • It is always wrong to tell a fellow writer that you like what he has written, when you don’t.

Here are some diplomatic ways to say difficult things to fellow writers whose work could definitely be improved. Focus on the work, not the writer, and have specific suggestions for improvement. That's the constructive criticism all writers want.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This part of the manuscript makes no sense.

SAY: This particular passage on page ____ isn’t clear to me. I got lost at the point where _____________________.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This work is so personal and intimate that I’m embarrassed for the writer.

SAY: At about page ___ I began to think there might be too much information about___________________ in this piece.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: That character in the story is a stereotype.

SAY: You might consider adding some more personality traits to that character ________, to keep him from seeming like a stereotype. For example, you could try_____________.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This writer ought to learn grammar and spelling.

SAY: While I was reading, I kept getting distracted by the typos in this manuscript.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This piece of writing just goes on and on about the same thing.

SAY: I think you get your point across fairly early in the piece, and after about page ___or so, it begins to feel repetitive.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: How can I possibly give useful feedback when the author gave me a story or essay with no ending?

SAY: It’ll be really hard for me to give you any useful feedback until this piece has an ending on it.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: I’ve tried to understand it, but this piece is so bizarre, I have no clue as to what response I can give.

SAY: Based on what I understand, this is what I think this piece is saying.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This writer thinks he’s a genius, when he’s just arrogant and doesn’t know what he’s doing.

SAY: If you’re open to suggestions, I have a few.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This piece of writing offends me.

Remember, your priority is to assess the quality of the work, not anybody's morals or values. But if you are so offended that you can barely pay attention to the quality of the work:

IF IT IS FICTION: Keep your comment specific and short. And remember that fictional characters and narrators aren’t obliged to be polite or politically correct. They may curse, neglect their children, use birth control, hunt endangered species, or burn flags. You might not care to meet them if they were real, but they aren’t. Don’t assume that the writer holds the same opinions that her characters do. Don’t respond as if the work is a personal attack on your values. It’s fiction. You might venture to say, “It would be easier for me to accept _____ as a character if he was shown to have a side that was more ____________,” but the writer is not obliged to bring her character's beliefs or behaviors into line with yours.

IF IT IS NONFICTION, SAY: This piece seems to come down really hard on (women, sex education, your employer, the Catholic Church, etc.). I wondered if that was what you intended.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: Ugh, this piece is nothing but a bitter rant!

SAY: This piece has mostly an angry tone. I was wondering what other feelings besides anger this subject stirs up in you.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: Obviously, this piece isn’t fiction. It’s something that really happened to the author, and he or she should stop trying to disguise it as fiction, because it isn’t working, and try writing it as nonfiction.

SAY: You know, if something like this has ever happened to you, I’d really like to see it rewritten as a memoir.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This reads like imitation Edgar Allan Poe! (or Bukowski, or David Foster Wallace, or whoever)

SAY: This reminds me of something I once read by Edgar Allan Poe. I kept looking for the special twist that you would give it.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This writer is usually pretty good, but this time she’s written a stinker.

SAY: Of the pieces of yours I’ve seen so far, this is my least favorite.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: It’s supposed to be funny (or scary, or sexy, or…), but I don’t find it to be so.

SAY: Here are my suggestions.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: Oh, no! She wrote more sordid confessions and melodramatic tales of victimization! Does she think I'm a therapist?

SAY: This must have been really tough to write. In some places it was even really tough to read.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: I’d cut this whole section out.

SAY: I don’t think the piece really needs this section, because _____________________.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: This was probably scribbled 15 minutes ago.

SAY: This piece seems to me to be in a very early stage of development, so I’m approaching it as if that’s the case.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: It’s a well-written memoir, but who cares about her old Uncle Charlie (or her birthing experience, or her rebirthing experience, or the day her family got a new water heater, or how she’s always hated coconut…)?

SAY: I have some ideas for revising this so that your subject will appeal to readers besides your family and friends.

IF YOU’RE THINKING: I’d better be really careful about what I say to Mister Sensitive; he will explode at me (or burst into tears, or flame me, etc.).

SAY: I really like ___________ and ________________ about this piece. I’d make a few changes. First, I’d _____________________. . .

IF YOU’RE THINKING: When we last met, this author really tore my work apart. Now that it’s my turn to criticize her work, what can I say that will sting her just as much?

SAY: How wonderful it is that we can help each other be better writers!

Sylvia Sky has taught creative-writing workshops at universities since 1989. Copyright 2013 by Sylvia Sky.

See Also: Group Writing Critiques: What They Are, Who Belongs and Who Doesn't.


Submit a Comment

  • Procopius profile image

    James Thompson 5 years ago from Tampa, FL

    Thank you again, I will do so.

  • SylviaSky profile image

    SylviaSky 5 years ago from USA

    Bookmark this page or like it on facebook, or email the URL to whomever might benefit from it. If you have a webpage, you have my permission to link to this article. I am happy to help as many artists as possible.

  • Procopius profile image

    James Thompson 5 years ago from Tampa, FL

    Thank you for this hub. I work at anime conventions and have a few web comics up, this is one of the hardest things to do for people. Constructive criticism for people who lay their work out for you at your table and want you to tell them, "Well what do you think of this?"

    Is there a way to save this so I can read it again? I am new here and do not know my way around the site yet. Again thanks for this, well written and informative piece.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)