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How to Be Critical Without Offending Anyone

Updated on May 28, 2012

These days everyone has an opinion, and most people are more than willing to share. This is all well and good, except a number of people do not know how to display their opinion in a non-offensive way. This can lead to large disagreements and anger on both sides of any issue. This is the case with everything from reviews to editing advice to political views. Criticism is a part of life, but it does not have to cause anger and resentment. So how can you be critical without offending someone?

Be Courteous

Start off with something positive. It is best to ease into criticism. People are more likely to accept criticism if it is preceded by a compliment.

Show Tact

Try your best not to be upfront and rude about your criticism. Word it in a way that shows you are not just bashing the person, their work, or their views.

Use Conditional Words

Criticism is taken best when it is phrased using conditional words. By conditional words, I mean words like if, perhaps, might, would, and maybe. People prefer to receive suggestions rather than demands.

Example: If there was one thing I would change, I might suggest adding a bit more emotion to your characters.

As opposed to: Your characters need emotion.

The first statement reads as advice, while the second can be interpreted as a potentially hurtful demand.

Avoid "You"

When critiquing something, or someone, it is best to use as little of the word "you" as possible. "You" calls out the person directly and seems accusing, which people might take affront to. If possible, it is much better to use "I" so people feel less threatened by the criticism.

Don't Make a Big Deal Out of It

No matter how much you disagree with an issue or find fault with it, resist the urge to blow things out of proportion. People are more inclined to gracefully accept small critiques than large statements of their many errors. Try to make all problems seem like small, easily fixable issues.


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    • SuzanneCarr profile image

      SuzanneCarr 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Fortunately that's the exact definition of constructive criticism - criticism that's non-confrontational, but is offered in a positive and helpful manner. Great job on reaching the 10 hub mark!

    • ccornblatt profile image

      Cassidy Cornblatt 5 years ago

      Thanks! I also am in favor of constructive criticism, but I think everyone can learn to tone down the severity of their critique. There's no need to be overly harsh.

    • profile image

      Janhorner 5 years ago

      Your article explains what can happen if someone does not use tact when suggesting something could be done better etc or there are certain errors that need rectifying.

      I detest sarcasm (low form of wit) and others who think they know it all, because learning is on going process it never actually stops.

      I joined a writers site around 3 years ago and there was someone on there who would read your work and would leave the most awful comments. This person made a comment to another writer (a new member) with words, not verbatim, but on the lines of "Do you think we are all deaf and stupid, you do not need to type in capitals..." The poor member was so embarrassed because he did not realise that using bold capitals was like shouting. I left after that because this person was soul destroying and dam right rude. This is just a true example of the kind of thing your article relates.

      Thanks, good manners cost nothing, brilliantly written, voted up.


    • SuzanneCarr profile image

      SuzanneCarr 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Another great hub! I agree with you. I don't feel there is anything wrong with giving constructive criticism if you do it in a respectful way. It's been my experience that when people overreact to criticism it's because the "critic" has hit a nerve. Keep up the good work!