First of all, congratulations to each and every writer out there who has stuck with Ye Olde Subb It Clubbe’s series on how to critique. May your dedication be rewarded with a hefty contract.
Today we discuss correcting the grammar and punctuation in your critique partner’s manuscript.
In general, don’t. That is not what critiquing is for.
When a writer asks you to take time out of your busy schedule to study his work, he better make it easy on you by providing a product that’s in tip-top shape. To ask a critique partner to shovel through a manuscript rife with typos, poor grammar and missing quotation marks? Well, it’s incredibly disrespectful. Don’t put up with a partner who doesn’t have a basic grasp of grammar, or can’t be bothered to use Spellcheck.
If, in a 2,000-word chapter, you find one incorrect use of the word “their”—not a big deal. Circle the word and proceed. Maybe one paragraph suddenly turns into the present tense instead of the past tense. Write “tense” in the margin and keep reading. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has their blind spots.
But if you are presented with a work that is unprofessional, I urge you to not bother. Return the manuscript, unread. You are not an English teacher. You are not a copy editor. You are not his mother.
Your time is valuable, do not waste it on someone who doesn’t honor that.
I hope this series has encouraged all of you to exchange your work with other writers. Critiquing, being critiqued and listening to others’ critiques is the fastest way to improve your craft.