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8.4 Responding to Criticism

“I am forced to say that I have many fiercer critics than myself.”

–Irwin Shaw

Nobody likes to be told that what they are doing isn’t right. But what separates good writers from other writers is that good writers are able to take criticism, realizing that nobody is perfect, and use the criticism to help them, either with the assignment at hand, or with writing assignments in the future.

If your roommate tells you that your paper sucks, you probably want to ask him or her why it sucks. If your roommate says that you are continually writing run-on sentences, ask for advice on how to correct them or look in a writing guide to learn how to fix them. By handling criticism constructively, you’ll be more aware of your common errors and less likely to repeat them, or at least will know how to find and correct them the next time you write.

Peer Review

If, while meeting with a tutor, you learn that you need further development of some of your ideas for clarity, revisit your writing and judge for yourself whether or not you do. Ask yourself if you understand since you are the one who did all of the research and know what you mean (probably a good indication that the tutor was right), or if you are comfortable that a reader would understand what you are saying without more information. Remember: as the writer, you’re in control of your paper. When people offer criticism, they’re usually just trying to help you. Try to keep that in mind. Take the suggestions when you think they make sense, and discard the ones that don’t.


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Expression and Inquiry by Christopher Manning; Sally Pierce; and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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