There are differences, really, I swear. First let’s go with the “textbook” definition of each term –
Criticism – The analysis and judgment of a literary or artistic work: “methods of criticism supported by literary theories”
Editing – Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.
The difference essentially is that criticism is a form of educated feedback – it’s saying what is strong about the piece and what is lacking. Editing is correction to a piece – which is taking the work away from the original author, which is fine if you are an editor or asked to correct someone’s grammar or are asked to rework a piece, but, I feel, has no place in criticism.
It is not the job of the critic to rewrite the work; that’s what someone editing does.
As a creative writer, I appreciate criticism that is helpful. I define helpful criticism as: comments that point out specifics within the piece and show an understanding of specific elements I’ve included within the work, comments about where a piece can cause some confusion or needs some clarity, comments on the overall mood of the piece (such as “it makes me feel like cats are magical,” etc.), or comments connecting the piece to maybe another piece that it was inspired by or can relate to in some fashion.
I don’t appreciate it when someone tries to edit my work in lieu of criticism, because they are not the same thing nor have the same function. I want to edit my own work – I don’t want the creativity of my work to be taken away from me. Examples of editing disguised as criticism are: suggesting a new word be used instead of a word already there, telling the author to expand on part of a piece and giving a specific direction to go in (such as “You should write more about cats by saying they are furry”), correcting grammar within the piece (all grammatical structure within a piece should be considered purposeful by the author and the reader should assume they contribute to meaning of the poem in some way), or rewriting a section of the poem (like “Oh, I think you should say “the itty bitty kitty” not “the itty witty kitty”).
Here on the site, we want feedback in the form of criticism. None of us are asking for editing and it’s not the purpose of The Poetics Project, so try to keep editing comments to a minimum please!
– Amanda Riggle
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