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Constructive Criticism Part 3: Ways To Phrase Criticisms In A Co

  • Member
    February 22, 2014

    When giving constructive criticism, the tone and wording of what you say is as important, maybe more important, than the actual message. You can speak all the truth in the world, but if it's done with a tone or phrase that triggers a new builder's defensiveness, the message will never be delivered.

    The Sandwich Method: Praise - Criticism - Praise

    If you feel that a certain unpleasant truth is absolutely necessary to deliver for the good of the build and the builder, then padding the blow helps. Find two positive points about the person's work. Then, sandwich the unpleasant news in between the two.

    Example: "I can see you've got a lot of enthusiasm for this character. [positive]
    I do think you need to work on cleaning up your fonts - the different sizes make it really hard to read. [constructive criticism]
    But I do like your equipment choices." [positive]

    Yes, you can come up with a positive about any build...even one that isn't a build yet. Try a little harder, even if it's something as simple as "I'm glad you decided to try writing a build!"

    Phrase It in the Form of A Question (Not a Demand)

    Demands and declarative statements read like an attack to a novice builder who has just put his/her baby build out into the world. Try to soften your phrasing.

    "How is this unique?"
    "Have you playtested this?"

    I can't seem to find...
    Folks who want to play this build will need..."
    Have you considered...?
    Can I suggest...?

    A Helpful Reference For Common Criticisms, Framed Constructively

    Not helpful:
    "Your build isn't's been done a million times"
    "If you don't sell it, there's little point in posting."

    "What is it about this build that makes it special to you as a builder? What are you most passionate about in this build? Highlight it for us and make it shine. Do your best to sell the most original and unique points."

    Not helpful:
    "This build is a's terrible...this is garbage."

    "I can see that you've put some effort into this. I still think it needs quite a bit of work. Have you thought about... x, y, z? You might want to take a look at the Character Building Guide. Here are some other similar builds; perhaps they might help you figure out your direction more clearly. Feel free to ask folks to read over your builds before you post, too. They might have other suggestions."

    Not helpful:
    "Stop being a baby. If you can't take criticism, then leave."
    "I've made xxx number of successful builds, so you should listen to what I have to say."

    "We're here to help folks make the best possible builds they can. These are our suggestions to help you make a successful build. You're free to take them or leave them, but most do come from folks with experience and successful builds."

    Not helpful:
    "Have you playtested this?"
    [I've seen this deployed with terminal prejudice at folks who actually *have* playtested their builds. Be specific about the basis for your suspicion; don't jump to conclusions.]

    "You know, I don't think x shout combined with y special move actually works that way. How did you make it work?"
    [builder admits no playtesting] Ah, then for future reference, you'll definitely want to playtest all of your builds before you post, to make sure all your information is accurate.

    Thanks to all who take the time to read these and make an effort to use them. Thanks also to those folks who already give criticism gracefully, particularly Mason, LiTiBi, and Vazgen, whose constructive feedback on builds has been paraphrased here. I look forward to further suggestions and feedback!

    For more in the Constructive Criticism Series see:

    Helpful Reminders For Those On The Receiving End

    Helpful Reminders For Those On The Giving End