This is the first of a half-dozen occasional posts sent me by the wonderful Floyd Hyatt. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Thanks, F. A.!
Reading Between The Lines
Ah, an old adage but a goodie. The basis, of course, is that editors use the margins and double spaces between lines, to write editorial and typesetting notes.
However, us untrained readers are sometimes not so pro at critiquing.
Reading between the lines, at this juncture, takes on its prosaic meaning. Did the Critiquer dislike that passage’s message, or was there something amiss technically with the structure of it? Was that word miss-spelled, or did it just connote, in the reader’s mind, something unintended? Was that character represented badly, or was its personality one the reader disliked?
Critiques walk a diverse path, both setting forth opinions, and pointing out technical errors. The tendency is to be less explicit than we should be, over all, which can lead to misinterpreted commentary.
To avoid this problem, it is sometimes best to tag comment as to type. Easy enough to do with, say, a spelling oversight or typo, but harder with structural errors, say, a miss-constructed sentence or paragraph, as opposed to something subjective, like cadence, logic, or our expectations within a piece.
Here are some “Best Practices” I have seen that avoid such misunderstandings:
Label clearly any Technical Problems:
- Spelling problem (Sp)
- Spacing error (Spc)
- Sentence structure issue (Stuct)
- Paragraph error – Formatting (fmt)
- Paragraph error – Improper inclusions (Pgph, Multip-subj)*
- Punctuation error- *
- Label Opinions as such:
- I Prefer this Punctuation*
- I Prefer this Adjective*
- I Prefer this Name, Pronoun*
- I would prefer this alternate Description*
- Suggest a revision for cadence*
- Suggest a description here*
- Suggest an alternate wording*
- Suggesting an Insert*
- Suggest Deleting this (unneeded, seems redundant, )
*write out what you would have preferred, or the correction
General feelings, or appreciations:
Start such comments with I felt, I thought, I would like to have seen, I was most impressed with, My preference would have been, My own impression was
However you do it, whatever format you choose to use in a critique, it is most helpful to be explicit in separating out what kind of comment you are making. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on something written, and these will be (or should be) gathered by the writer to assess how a work might be received by the general audience for it, but such are not necessarily grammar, spelling, or format issues.
Carefully categorizing what kind of commentary is being tendered aids the author in grooming his work, prevents misunderstanding the readers intent, and requires little extra effort on the reader’s part.
F. A. Hyatt
WRITING PROMPT: Practice what F. A. preaches.