or, How To Criticize Responsibly
In the previous section, we discussed the definition and process of good writing. We now turn our attention to the other half of the writing equation: criticism. The relationship between writers and critics is time-tested and sacred, exemplified by such delightful pairings as Punch and Judy, Galileo and the Catholic Church, and Godzilla and the city of Tokyo. Critics are vital to the writing process. In fact, writers could not exist without critics- don't you ever forget that, you miserable creative worm.You may have heard the phrase "everybody is a critic," but critics are actually a small, elite group of exceptional individuals working toward the betterment of mankind. To find out if you have what it takes to be a critic, consider the following questions: Are you an all-knowing, all-seeing, perfect super-being?
Is your own writing exemplary?
Without prompting, would your acquaintances say that you have taste and a sense of humor?
Can you tell the difference between satire and genuine piggishness?
Would you rather teach one bird to sing, than teach a thousand stars how not to dance?
If you can honestly answer "no" to at least one of those questions, then you are qualified as an entry-level critic.Now, take the next step and ask yourself: Do I prefer to skirt around heavy issues rather than disclosing a potentially unpopular opinion?
Are my opinions better than everyone else's?
Do amateur psychologists often diagnose me as being "passive-aggressive" or as having a "complex"?
Do I often diagnose other people as being "passive-aggressive" or as having a "complex"?
Am I genuinely apathetic to what others think of me?
Would I gladly leap to the defense of a group to which I do not belong and which does not want me on its side?
Can I readily extract the straw from my brother's eye without removing the rafter from my own?
Am I an unrecognized genius?
Does everybody hate me even though I'm better than them?
Am I tactless?
Do people fail to appreciate my own work because they're stuck-up and/or stupid?
Criticism is a fine art, and, as such, it cannot be quantified; however, your ability as a critic varies directly to the number of the above questions that you can answer in the affirmative. If you said "yes" to all of them, then give yourself a big pat on the back: you have graduated, and may skip the rest of this section (and all of my other work as well- you're just too good for it). If, however, there is room for improvement, you will be interested in the methods described in the rest of this essay.
First, you must understand the goal of criticism: to discourage bad writers from ever writing again, and to inflate the self-esteem of good writers to such an extent that they no longer feel the need to write. Therefore, when writing your review, you should focus your attention on the writer rather than the writer's work.
We will start by reviewing a good writer, because this kind of review is the easiest to write. Simply copy and paste the following:
Your great! There were a few typos, thogh. Keep up the good work!
You may feel that simply copying and pasting a review is too impersonal, and you may think it hypocritical to point out another writer's typos when your own review contains obvious spelling mistakes. Let me be the first to assure you that your concerns are asinine. Just do as everyone else does without questioning, and you'll feel so much better for it.
We will now enter upon the slightly more complicated process of reviewing a bad writer. Recall that a bad writer is one who expresses opinions with which you disagree. Your first inclination may be to say "I disagree with your opinions," and then to write a well-thought-out explanation of the artistic merits and flaws of the work, giving specific suggestions on how to improve it, while reserving your conflicting opinions for a work of your own. This is childish and very, very wrong. Let's learn how to review the right way.
When reviewing a bad writer, always start with the word "you." This sets a nice accusatory tone, which will help the writer to relax and make him or her more inclined to listen to you. Follow that "you" with any of these phrases (or create your own in a similar tone): "suck," "are an idiot," "should go kill yourself," "are not a writer," "don't know me," or "seem to think that [I'm/my friends are/so-and-so is] [stupid/evil/ignorant]." You have a great deal of creative flexibility with this opening sentence: you may print all or some of the words in capitals, insert random spelling mistakes, and add as many exclamation points and question marks as you would like. For example:
YOO seem 2 thimk that GURLZ r STOOPID!?
This is an excellent start, very professional and mature, but now you must launch into specifics. Again, you may be inclined to give the matter some thought, pinpoint the exact aspect of the writing that made you angry, and consider whether it's really worth a fight. Snap out of it! The review is an outlet for all of your pent-up, self-perpetuating rage and hidden prejudices, so let the words fly and never give a second thought to so-called "rationality" or "relevance." In fact, this is a good place to insert a random insult of your choice. You shouldn't need any help with this area; just remember to throw about labels which you can't easily define, implement language that would make Howard Stern blush, and punctuate generously.
Now, tell the writer a little about yourself- specifically, why you are right and they are wrong, wrong, WRONG! You may wish to use the following format: "Just because I [clause that applies to you] and [another clause that applies to you] doesn't mean that I'm a [label which you believe that the author has tried to apply to you, even though it obviously does not fit]!" Again, you may use creative capitalization, spelling, and punctuation to prove your superiority. Try the following examples:
Just because I'M a CAPITALIST and I think that I'M BETTER than YOU doesn't make ME an ELITIST, you PEASANT. just bbecuz im furry! & warm-blooded! & my parentz were cats! dont mean im a mammal! It may occur to you that a few of the preceding statements are inherently flawed, perhaps in a humorous way. Stow it. Criticism isn't about being correct; it's about being more correct than the writer whom you are critiquing; and, besides, the best critics have no sense of humor about themselves or anything else. With that in mind, let us move on to the meat of the review: personal attacks.
Perhaps your parents or legal guardians taught you that it is demeaning to insult another person. Wrong again, Bulletin-breath. The fact is, most writers have very healthy self-images and no discernible personal flaws; thus, if a critic does not take the time to insult them, they are liable to simply float away on clouds of bliss. The best thing that you can do to a writer is to make him understand just how worthless he is. Try to think of everything that the writer says as a murderous attack on you and your closest friends, and respond accordingly. Use a combination of racial epithets, cheap shots, and general insults to keep that writer on the ground, where she belongs.
Your review looks very good, as far as it goes, but it is missing something: constructive criticism. Constructive criticism looks like this:
Learn to spell, you moron! Even if the reviewed work displays worse problems than bad spelling or typographical errors, these are the only problems that you should mention specifically. Remember, you are reviewing the author, not his or her work, so do not give any helpful suggestions on the piece.
To make your feelings abundantly clear, conclude your review with a threat or curse. I will leave the exact nature of your closing statement to your own discretion, but remember to make it abundantly clear that you wish the writer bodily harm, the loss of a loved one, and/or a slow, gruesome death. Let's put it all together:You are a idoit! Just beacuz I'm unkind to children and puppys and I feast on the blood of the innocent does that mean I'm evil!? PACK UP YOUR TEEPEE AND GO BACK TO RUSSIA YOU MISOGYNIST BIMBO! And fix those typos! I hope a swarm of driver ants eats your brain and all of your teeth fall out except one so you can still get a toothache you big meanie!
Now, that is a great critique. It is professional-looking, it gets the critic's point across without any unnecessary detours, and it shows the critic to be a sophisticated, intelligent individual. A writer cannot help but take you seriously when you write a review like that.
You know how to write a review, but you still need professional guidance before you can correctly respond to a review. Don't worry: it's really quite simple.