Criticism vs. Cruelty

This topic pops up every now and again around the book community about the difference between being critical of an author’s work, and being cruel about it.

When writing a review, everyone wants your 100% honest opinion – and that is so important because you shouldn’t let anything persuade you into doing anything less than that; but there are some people who take that phrase and make it into a game of who can criticize the best, and often that can turn into cruelty.

I always try to look on the more positive side of things in my reviews, stating only some things that bugged me in the nicest way possible while also giving my 100% honest opinion. In those moments I have a choice to say, “I liked this, but didn’t like this because…” And I think that some people forget the “because” part.

I’ve seen reviews where someone said, “This sucked,” and didn’t even explain why it sucked, what part did, why they’re giving their reason for it, just… that’s it. Of course, sometimes that phrase comes out much harsher and it just looks like that person is bashing the author rather than criticizing the work.

When you criticize a book, you’re talking about the good and the bad in a way that’s both helpful to those wanting to know whether or not the book is worth reading, and whether or not the book has more cons than pros, and so forth.

Of course, you don’t have to be a boring presentation that you did in your high school class to get those points across. You can be silly, sarcastic, use swears (constructively), use gifs, etc. I think part of what makes doing reviews so great is that you can have such a variety of styles and ways to express what you felt about the book compared to how someone else felt.

But when you’re writing your review, you really need to sit back and think, “is this constructive, or is this just mean?” Nine times out of ten, you’re probably fine. But read through your post over again just to make sure you’ve explained your reasonings behind any negative criticisms.

You know it’s sometimes easier to just say something like, “I hated that the author wrote the characters this way. If I had any say in it, I would have wrote them this way instead.” That’s just not right because 1) it’s not your work, and 2) everyone writes differently so everyone is going to see things differently.

But if you don’t agree with how a character acts, you might say instead, “I felt that this character changed dramatically throughout the novel because…” Explaining why you think something versus just stating and being a grump about it are two very different things.

But like I also said: everyone has different writing styles and voices their opinions in different ways. Just when it comes down to it, don’t be cruel in your reviews – be constructive.

Let’s Chat! ≧◡≦

How do you view criticism vs cruelty? Do you find that most reviewers are doing a good job at being constructive rather than mean? If you’ve seen a mean or hateful review, what made it that way?