How to Critique an Article

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It is vital to order thought, especially in an activity such as criticizing texts of a more or less literary nature. It is the only way for these criticisms to be useful for both the writer and the readers, and for the critic. Thus, in the first place, it is necessary to mark two essential and, in principle, unique objectives; Of course we obviate the critics with dark additional reasons to do their job.

First objective: reading the criticism

Although it seems a bit ridiculous, this is a point that we must never lose sight of: our criticism, if we do not get it read, is useless.

The first requirement to achieve this goal is obviously to write it correctly. It is particularly misplaced, and even irritating, to find texts with mobile phone acronyms in the literature section. Faults in spelling, grammar and other kits will also modify the way our criticism is received, and never in a positive way.

In second place would come the order. A good structure of criticism helps to digest it. The comments should be grouped by theme and / or follow a logical order -of magnitude, of interest, chronological, etc. If we talk about characters, after plot, and then we return to the characters again we will reduce coherence to the comment and we will confuse the reader giving him a feeling of complaining about everything.

The visual arrangement of the comments also helps. The ideal would be to be able to insert the comments, in different colours, next to the corresponding sections of the text and include a final summary of them. This recapitulation, which is the only one accessible in Ociojoven – fortunately – can be considerably improved with the simple use of divisions by paragraphs of the different points to be treated.

The third point is the most tricky and the most discussed, although in fact it is not very debatable. You have to measure the words when a criticism is made. Insulting, directly or indirectly, the author of the text does not encourage him to take the criticism into account. It can be used as a resource if we dedicate it to its readers with the aim of insulting it, but this should not be the case of a text comment between civilized members of a forum.

Second objective: provide useful information

Once we have got someone to read the criticism, it is necessary to make sure that what you are reading is good for something. This is usually the point that discourages people from writing their comments, since they always find that their opinion will not contribute much. This is a clear error, because they do not take into account that the most vitiated view of a text, unfailingly, has its author. On the other hand, following the points that I list below, it will not be difficult to detect aspects subject to revision.

Before moving on to this list, however, I want to highlight an extremely useful tool that stimulates the critic himself: precision. It is not the same to say “fabulous” (good with nuances of fable), “extraordinary” (good and out of the ordinary) or “unusual” (out of the ordinary). It is especially interesting to use this tool in the titles of the comments trying to guess the effect on the reader.

Subjective criticism

This is the most popular and can be very interesting. Most readers can find what squeaks in a story without being able to explain why. They should not be dismissed, but neither should they overshadow the analysis. It is not only a problem of form: in one guesses a reason not specified and in another some personal neuro of the critic.

Many times these discrepancies between author and reader reveal that the former knows more about written history than that which reflects the paper – or the screen – and, unfortunately, it is usually by mistake. Comments about the interest or not that a subject has, or about the convenience of expressing it with prudence, modesty, boldness, harshness, etc., would be typical of this type of criticism and can help to change the focus of a text making it more suitable for its reading.

Objective criticism

This should be technical and have a logical basis that we will try to dissect below through the objective points that all rational accounts must meet.

  • Coherence: The plot, and the events it encompasses, should not present contradictions. Attention with the characters: from their individuality they can be contradictory, but this should not happen due to the author’s carelessness.
  • Cohesion: It is important that the story takes us in some direction, although it is circular. If the author wanders the reader is distracted. Everything that happens in a story must have a meaning; If you do not have it, it is straw, at best, or dirty tricks to divert the attention of the reader.
  • Rhythm: It is easy to perceive if the story goes too fast -requires greater definition of things and more space for events and / or characters- or too slow -It is overloaded with elements that are not interesting for the reader.
  • Errata: As much as some try to ignore it, spelling and grammar do exist and are not adaptable to one’s own needs or personal sound perceptions. You can check the RAE page to answer questions. If you want to be a diplomat, these failures are called “errata”; if not, they can be considered ignorance or apathy.
  • Language: the use of a bombastic language weighs down the reading if it is not used properly. This type of things can be pointed out, along with technicalities, vulgarisms and vulgarities, anglicisms and other linguistic particularities, although in many cases they will be subjective.

These are the points that, I believe, should be considered when a criticism is made. They are not subjective or, at least, they do not pretend to be. What is right and what is not within each section should be marked by common sense, encyclopaedias and / or dictionaries. We can philosophize about its validity but we need some guidelines to understand each other among all.

 

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