Critique Tone

There is more than one valid way to communicate with each other. A frequent misunderstanding the moderation team has observed between members in giving and receiving critique is one of tone. The content of a critique may be excellent, yet come off as offensive if accidentally delivered in a tone the author cannot stand. I want to emphasize that disliking someone’s tone in critique doesn’t make them “wrong,” any more than disliking an ice cream flavour makes that flavour “wrong.” You like chocolate, they like vanilla, I like olive oil-saffron-orange-caramel. No really, this is a thing. I also like ylang ylang and fennel. Half of you are disgusted at the very name, while the other half rushes to order before it’s discontinued.

The moderation team has grouped common critique styles into three loose categories, as follows:

Literal. Bare bones, and as neutral and concise as possible. People who like this style perceive it as professional and clear. People who dislike it perceive it as impersonal and uninterested.

Example: “I hate the name Johnny for a fantasy character. It doesn’t suit the world at all, and damages my immersion in the story.”

Colloquial. Sarcastic, satirical, containing blue humour. People who like this style perceive it as relaxed and genuine. People who dislike it perceive it as rude and biting.

Example: “I hate the name Johnny for a fantasy character; I hate it like poison. I think it is poison as far as your world-building is concerned. An adult named Johnny is a guy with a pompadour and a pleather jacket, not a knight. Calling a guy who wears chain maille armour (not even chain mail armor) “Johnny” strikes a jarring note right from the start and deals your credibility as a narrator a vicious left hook from which, I believe, it never even begins to recover.”

Diplomatic. Encouraging, positive, validating. People who like this style perceive it as courteous and supportive. People who dislike it consider it pandering and passive aggressive.

“Johnny is an interesting choice of name for a knight. It’s not something I usually associate with fantasy. I wonder if, to better win over genre readers, you might reconsider the name?”

Like CUBA, these categories should be seen as a sliding scale. Very few people fall at an extreme. Most people are between two, and change a little depending on whom they’re critiquing.  You may prefer receiving a different kind of critique than you typically give. It’s all just a starting point for discussion with your teams, to make sure you are giving each other the most custom-tailored help possible. Take a moment to consider how you usually critique, what you can accommodate, and what you like to receive. Importantly, please identify if there are any examples above you find offensive, that you would dislike if given to you. This way, your teammates are informed, and can strive to meet your needs.

Flexibility in the type of help we give is key, as is having a consistent scale that we’re all using to communicate. Moderators will spot check periodically and help members adjust both their CUBA and critique tone ratings to the bell curve of the Ubergroup. It doesn’t matter how your crits are categorized, other than to help each other identify what we all like. No different than gelato. If you like the taste of melone (melon) but ask for mela (apple), if you’re selling  mandarino (orange) but put up a sign that says mandoorla (almond), or didn’t know even know that nocciola (hazelnut) and gianduja (hazelnut chocolate, aka Piedomontese Nutella-type blend) were even things… no one ends up happy.

Please discuss with your teams approximately what types of critique you like to give and receive, and ask for moderator help if you would like a critique reviewed for accurate categorization.