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How to tell when criticism is unreasonable

"Do not feed the Trolls" sign. Photo...

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Recently I read a blog post that angered me and broke my heart a little. When we dare to express ourselves, there’s always going to be someone who disagrees, doesn’t like it and thinks you’re stupid. Some people aren’t shy about letting you know how they feel and are pretty blunt about it. Constructive criticism is helpful criticism, administered gently. Awhile back I got a nice note about an edit that needed to be done on my other blog. The guy pointed out the problem and couldn’t have been sweeter about it. As a result, I went out of my way to help him in turn. Then there are those other people.

How to tell when criticism is unreasonable:

1. They focus on you instead of the issue. People who start out by insulting you aren’t helping. They want to feel good about themselves by putting you down. Call them a name in turn: Troll!

2. They go on at length and overstate your grammatical sins. That’s someone who has too much time on their hands. (See #1)

3. They talk about their work and its relative superiority. Some people actually take this tac to ask for business. They want to sell their editing or consulting service and their approach is a frontal assault on why you suck.Don’t encourage bad behavior by rewarding it.

4. They treat finding fault as a moral victory. If they wanted to be helpful, they’d just point out the problem and move on.

5. They’re wrong. An english teacher once tried to convince me that the you effect the affect instead of the other way around. She wasn’t going to be convinced otherwise, either. After all, she was a teacher, not a learner.

6. If this is someone you know, instead if an acquaintance or an anonymous internet troll, have you noticed that person is hypercritical about everything? Consider the source.

7. They quibble over stylistic stuff that could go either way. When I worked at Harlequin, we often got letters from readers applying for jobs. A common tactic was to criticize books for perceived failings in proofing. The approach never worked for two reasons: It was insulting to the staff and the complainer/job applicant was annoyed with all the British spelling in lines that were meant for British markets. (See #5)

8. They tell you publicly what they could have told you privately. Instead of setting out to embarrass you publicly on Facebook, they could have just sent you a kind private message to let you know you screwed up. That tells you where they’re coming from. They’re out to show off how clever they are at your expense. Not a friend.

Writers produce. A lot.

(And yes, I know that’s a sentence fragment. Actually, I’m quite fond of sentence fragments, so there.)

We write so much that, inevitably, problems will emerge.

Typos and missing words and miscellaneous issues will appear. We’re writers, but also human, I’m afraid. Follow anyone around all day with a tape recorder and eventually, they’ll say something dumb. Stuff gets missed and mixed up in speech and in writing. Recently, President Obama got the number of states in the union wrong. Does anybody really believe Obama doesn’t know there are fifty states in the United States?*

Well…some people would believe that. That’s someone else you should ignore.

*There are 50, right? Gee, I hope I got that right! Otherwise, I’ll deserve hot pokers under my eyelids and a solid whipping and I’ll never, ever write anything again and I’ll be ever-so-grateful to the person who saved me from myself and my horrible, horrible mistakes! I’m not worthy! I am worm sweat and trolls are all oh-so-very-smart! How do these demigods bear breathing the same air as the rest of us mere mortals?

Okay. That might have been a bit over-the-top, unreasonable criticism in the form of unnecessary sarcasm.

Filed under: DIY, getting it done, grammar, publishing, Rejection, reviews, Writers, writing tips,

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