Critique Vs Edit

I really meant to post this a few weeks ago, but work comes first and I have been snowed under. The writing group I belong to is putting together an Anthology, and I have been editing some of the pieces the past couple of weeks. Keep your eyes open – I will post when it’s done, and when it’s available to purchase. So here it is: better late than never.

Critiquing and editing what’s the difference? How many of you are asking that question right now? I asked it, when I first started at University. Now I know the answer, I want to share it with you.

There are some things they have in common. They both require you to hand over your work for someone else to look at, both return with suggestions of ways to improve, and they both leave it to your judgement whether to implement the changes in your own words – after all, an editor or a beta reader is not a ghost writer! But that is where the similarities end.

A critique is a lot shallower, compared to the in-depth analysis at the heart of editing. A critique is like an overview of the manuscript, pointing out what works, what doesn’t and where it could be improved as well as an overall impression of the story i.e. why do they like it, or not, as the case may be.

An edit does the same thing but on a much smaller scale, looking at the minutiae where a critique would focus on the big picture. It pulls a manuscript apart, line by line, and paragraph by paragraph to fix and improve the story. An edit will look at grammatical and spelling errors, poorly put together sentences, and highlight specific places where more could be said. It shows you where you need more description, where you need to clarify a confusing point, where the dialogue is in the wrong voice; for example, a cockney speaking the Queen’s English.

It also shows where you can remove sections of the manuscript which are unnecessary, as well as extraneous words and sentences, to tighten the story. It examines the paragraphs to find any repetitive words or phrases, studiously finding ways of correcting this to improve the flow of the piece. It analyses dramatic scenes, looking to see if there is enough emotion for the reader to connect, or if it is overdone and in need of pruning back. It evaluates the imagery, ensuring there’s enough for the reader to inhabit the places and associate with the people; including the characters themselves, identifying whether they are realistic and three-dimensional. It scrutinises the story to make sure the author is showing the reader what is happening rather than telling, and to be certain that no errors in continuity have been made.

With both of these I use a guideline sheet, since I always accompany an edit with a summary feedback form.

Here is the generic critiquing sheet I received while at University; please feel free to copy this:

General Comments/Overview

Language – appropriate, original use of language

Subject matter – deployment of themes; settings; variation in subject matter

Narration –narrative movement, momentum and control

Characterisation & Realisation – how effectively people, places and situations are brought to life


Structural Effects – rhythm and progression; how well the whole is built and the parts achieved


3 thoughts on “Critique Vs Edit

  1. Hi Maria

    A very enjoyable blog about critiquing and editing.

    You might like to know that in the publishing business itself looking at grammatical and spelling errors, poor sentence structure, clarification, cutting repetitive words etc is called a copy edit.

    It comes after your book has been edited and these days is no longer done in-house – ie it’s the work of freelance copyeditors not by publishers themselves… another way for them to keep costs down. Alas, almost nobody does line-edits any more – again for financial reasons.

    Best wishes


    • Thanks Guy!

      I know the publishing business has changed, but personally I lump all of it in together when I’m doing a complete edit. I will do just a line-edit, or just a copy edit if that is required, but with a full edit, I do all of it.

      Glad you liked the post.

      Maria xoxo

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