How To Critique


If you haven’t already, make sure to check the Criticism Policy to see the overarching rules behind critiquing. Then, look at our Greenlight Policy.

If you’re here, you’re probably wanting a more in-depth guide on how to critique others' levels, entities, objects, etc. here on the Backrooms wikidot! Maybe you want to get better at it, or maybe you just want to know so you can offer critique for critique (crit for crit), or maybe you want to become a Greenlighter. Regardless of your reasons for being here, I hope you get something from this page.

The Importance of Critique
Plain and simple— we’re human. We all make mistakes, regardless of how good our writing is or how long we’ve been writing. Critique is there to help catch those mistakes, whether they're plot holes, SPaG or things that don't make sense. Think of it like polishing a gemstone. Gemstones in their natural state are dull and lumpy, but with work, their brilliance shines through and may even reveal things that weren’t obvious before. Critique does the same thing with writing.

Benefits of Critiquing

1. Critiquing others’ works introduces you to other members of the community.
The wikidot is supposed to be a collaborative writing site. Writing by yourself is fine, but writing with friends is more enjoyable. You’ll become invested in others’ works and cheer them on. You’ll see new ideas and get inspired.

2. Critiquing makes you a better writer.
Think about it. You’ll be picking apart and analyzing a page to see the flaws and strengths. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to see patterns and what makes a page “good” or “bad.” Then, you can take these patterns, incorporate them into your own work, and avoid common pitfalls.

3. Critiquing gives back to the community.
To get critique, you must give critique. A community shouldn’t be made up of people only taking from it. You need to be able to give back to it in some way. A short, “Hey, I enjoyed this, but this part of the page is weak” is perfectly acceptable.

4. Critiquing is rewarding.
Frankly, helping people is awesome. Helping an author get over a plot hole, knowing that you're helping people get better at writing and quality pages onto the site, watching someone get their first, second, and nth page onto the wiki all because you helped them. Those are just a few of the rewards you can get by critiquing other people's work.

Those are just a few reasons why you should critique, so let’s get into how to critique.

How to Critique

There are many different ways to critique, but the Backrooms wikidot has three main kinds of critique before something can be posted. Because of this, we'll be focusing on those three kinds in this guide:

  • Concept
  • SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar)
  • Format

Regardless of what kind of critique you’re doing, don’t be mean. There is a difference between being strict and being mean. Be strict, but fair. Point out things that aren't working, but be sure to point out what is working. You want to help the author get their piece posted, but you don’t want to coddle them.

Just as a personal tip, I would limit using “you” or any curse words when you’re critiquing someone. Tone and inflection can be nonexistent over text-based communication. Using “you” can feel like someone jabbing you in the chest, and when it’s connected to criticism, even if it’s constructive, it can feel like an attack. Curse words can make a situation less formal and less tense, but they also can feel overly hostile.

To avoid as much miscommunication as possible, your critique should be as professional sounding as possible, especially if you don’t have a close personal relationship with the author. Try to refer to “the page,” “the setting,” “the characters,” etc.

For example, instead of saying, “Your writing is full of purple prose1” it’s better to say, “The piece has a lot of purple prose. Cutting down on some of the description will tighten the writing up and make it easier to get through and understand. Here are some spots I noticed.”

Why does this work?

  1. It’s professional.
  2. It doesn’t involve the author whatsoever, making a misunderstanding less likely.
  3. It explains the problem.
  4. It explains why it's a problem.
  5. It points out places where it's a problem.

Try to follow this structure when writing critique, especially when first starting out. When you become more experienced giving critique, you can branch out and experiment with your own style.

Concept Critique

Good news. Everyone can do concept critique! It’s arguably the most important critique since you might suggest global changes (changes that affect the whole page) to the page2.

Before you start to suggest fixes or anything along those lines, read the whole page. Read it like a casual reader. Read it for fun! This site and all the Backrooms lore is supposed to be fun. Have an open mind about what they’re trying to do. Take notes if something jumps out at you, but don’t think too hard about it at this point.

Why? You’re just trying to get an idea of what the piece is trying to accomplish as a whole.

Ask questions like these:

  • What emotions does it evoke in you?
  • What’s the general plot?
  • What is all this going toward?
  • Who are the characters?
  • What do they want?
  • What does this add to the Backrooms?

Make notes of these questions' answers, and keep them in mind as you continue to read.

Then, read it again.

Why? This pass is just to catch anything you miss, see if you can answer any questions brought up from the first time you read.

Don’t correct grammar mistakes on the page at all at this point. They’re not going to matter if the page’s contents are drastically altered. Don’t waste time and effort. This is what the SPaG check is for.

Now you can start to get into your critiques. When you do your critiques, remember to do PCP: Praise, correct, praise (not the drug).

Why? People are more receptive to critique when you sandwich the bad news in between good news. Also, you want to encourage a writer’s strengths. Let them know what they’re doing well so they can start to do it consciously. And you know… us writers crave validation. Being nice is nice.

Praise in thorough critiques should go beyond, “I like your idea. It seems cool.” You need to unpack this statement.

  • Why did you like it? If you didn’t like it, then what aspects did you like?
  • What made it cool to you?
  • Are the themes strong?
  • Do you identify with the character?
  • Does the dialogue sound realistic?
  • Did it evoke a strong emotional reaction in you?
  • Does everything tie together to further the author’s main goal?
  • What worked well in the piece?

Correction when you’re critiquing should always be polite and professional. Never attack the author. Your job is to identify weak points in the page and point them out so the author can fix them. Your ultimate goal is to get the author’s page to a point where it can go onto the wiki. Always. If you’re trying to bully someone out of writing because you don’t think they’re good enough, leave. Touch grass. You’re not wanted here.

With that out of the way, here are some questions you can think about:

  • What wasn’t working? Why?
  • What didn’t you understand?
  • What was confusing?
  • What aspects of the page are weak? How can that be fixed?
  • Is it realistic?
  • If it’s not realistic, is the internal logic consistent?

However saying, “This concept has been done before” is bad crit.

So what? What matters is what direction the author is taking it. Think about this: The Backrooms; Alice in Wonderland; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; every isekai ever. They are all about people falling into a fantastical world, but they’re completely different! They all have different characters, genres, tones, styles. It doesn’t matter if something’s been done before if the author takes in a unique direction.

Along those lines, don't immediately dismiss concepts when they're just in the idea stage3. There are no bad ideas, just poor executions. Sometimes an idea needs to be written out in order for its true potential to be seen. And sometimes, even the coolest ideas fall flat in the hands of poor writers.

If you truly believe the draft or idea won't work, politely explain why and offer up your reasonings. But telling the author to scrap the draft should generally be done as a last resort.

Generally, whatever is bothering you as a reader, tell the author, but also explain why it’s bothering you. Sometimes, it’s a page-altering problem, but other times, it may come down to personal preference. Maybe you’re not a fan of a particular trope or idea. At that point, just let the author know it’s something to be aware of if multiple people mention something. But let it go. A good critique keeps personal feelings out of it.

If sentences feel wonky, you can offer suggestions for some rewording, but don’t completely rewrite someone’s page. One, it’s rude, and two, it’s their page, not yours. Just point out the spots to them and move on. When it comes to making changes, I like to ask questions rather than give commands. One, it’s not my page, and two, it’s completely possible for me to have missed what the author was going for.

For example, instead of saying, “Move this here,” I would ask “What would happen if you switched the plot beats around?” Instead of saying, “Their actions don’t make sense,” I would ask, “Why is the character acting this way?” and so on.

Questions allow you to voice your concerns, but also provide a jumping off point for the author to work from in their next draft.

For sensitive topics in a piece, try to keep an open mind. Don’t immediately tell the author to remove it. Think about how it’s serving the page. What is its purpose in the page? Is it there just for shock value? Is there a content warning for people who may be sensitive to this topic? What does the page gain by having it? What would it lose if it was removed?

However, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, it is completely okay to stop critiquing and let the author know to ask someone else to critique.

Finally, end the critique with some more positive Praise. Let the last thing the author remembers be what in their page is doing well and end your interaction with the author on a high note. It makes the community a more welcoming place and encourages collaboration.

SPaG Critique

So unfortunately, SPaG is harder to do than concept or format critiques if English is not your first language (mostly when it comes to reworking sentences with odd rhythm). But it’s doable! There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The more you read, the more you’ll know.
  • Some grammar rules are more like guidelines. And sometimes hard rules can be broken.
  • Punctuation in English revolves around the independent clause.
  • It is absolutely okay to look something up if you don’t know the rule. Using Grammarly for these purposes is fine.

Easiest way to catch spelling errors is to throw the page into a word processor of some kind. They’re pretty okay for the most part. If you have questions about a word though, look it up. I do it all the time to double-check. There’s no shame.

First thing to know: all sentences in English are composed of a Subject, a Verb, and (usually) an Object. They’re called independent clauses. I won’t go into detail here4, but being able to identify those in a sentence is critical to understanding where punctuation goes. You can add extra bits to the sentence, but there must be those three things for a sentence to make sense in English.

There are also phrases and dependent clauses. A dependent clause is5 a sentence that cannot stand on its own anymore, usually by adding a word that makes it subordinate6. So it has a Subject, a Verb, and an Object, but it’ll feel “unfinished.” Phrases, on the other hand, are missing one of the three components and can never stand on their own.

Punctuation connects and separates independent clauses, dependent clauses, and phrases. Knowing which kind to use is critical to making your page look clean and professional. These are general usage of punctuation marks.

Puncutation Use
. Ends a sentence. Fairly neutral in tone.
! Ends a sentence, but heightens whatever emotion is in the sentence.
? Ends a sentence, but makes it a question.
- (hyphen) Depends on the situation and grammar style you’re following. Generally connects compound words together.
– (en dash) Depends on the situation and grammar style you’re following. Generally is only used to show a range of numbers.
— (em dash) Usually sets off a phrase or indicates a sentence suddenly being cut off.
() Sets off phrases or information, but is like someone muttering the information under their breath.
: Precedes a list, explanation, or quote. Generally though, you can put whatever you want after it so long as an independent clause is before it.
; Connects two sentences in a way that blends them together. Also separates items in complex lists.
' Signals possession, a quote inside a quote7, or is part of a contraction.
… (ellipses) Signals information that was omitted from a cited source or signals that someone has an incomplete thought. There should only ever be 3 dots.

Commas get their own special place because there are a lot of misconceptions around them. Many people have been told that wherever you pause in a sentence is where you put a comma. This… isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s inaccurate. A better explanation is that commas signal movement or additions onto an independent clause. Here is a quick run down of a few examples and other uses for commas.

  • If you add a phrase or dependent clause before an independent clause,8 you add a comma.
  • Things shoved into the middle of a sentence, like what I did here, need to be offset with commas
  • Things added to the end of a sentence need commas, which I’m demonstrating here.
  • Commas with a coordinating conjunction (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So) connect two independent clauses together.
  • They also separate items in a list. The Oxford comma is the last comma in the list, before “and,” “nor,” and “or.” It’s considered “optional9."

Alright, so grammar includes a lot of things: word choice, wording, sentence organization, and other things like that.

Key things to look out for:

  • Commonly confused words. Here are some websites that list them:
  • Apostrophes. 's is singular possessive; s’ is plural possessive. If it's just plural, there should be no apostrophe.
  • Subject-verb agreement. Does the singular verb have a singular subject? Does the plural verb have a plural subject?
  • Comma splices. Commas cannot link two complete sentences together without a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS).
  • Sentence fragments. These are not complete sentences, but do be aware it can be a stylistic choice to use them.

Prescriptivist Grammar
However, many grammar rules you’ve heard in your life are optional. They’re prescriptive, explaining how language should be10. Some examples are below.

  • Don’t split infinitives (verbs that have “to” in front of them).
  • Don’t start a sentence with “and” or “but”
  • Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  • Avoid passive voice.

So the thing about prescriptivist rules is that, well, they’re more guidelines than rules. You can break these guidelines and most English speakers will understand you. Sometimes it has a greater effect: “to boldly go” instead of “to go boldly.” Without breaking the guidelines, we wouldn’t have Star Trek’s iconic line.

However, following these guidelines may help with clarity and professionalism. For example, if a page is being written in a "clinical" tone, then passive voice is actually the best tone to write in. It's more formal and detached, perfect for a page that's trying to be objective and avoid emotion.

It all depends! So don't just rely on writing advice as iron rules that can't be broken. Look at the situation, the page, the sentence, and then decide based on what will make the page's goals shine through what rules to ignore or follow.

Flow and Rhythm
The idea of how a page "flows" means a lot of things. It can be the pacing, the sequential order of events, whether or not something makes sense, but we're going to focus on sentence variety and rhythm. There are four different sentence types: simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound.

  • Simple sentences have only an independent clause. They can vary in length. This one's short.
  • Compound sentences have two or more independent clauses, and usually, they're connected by the FANBOYS. They can be short, or they can be very long, so be careful if you're using more than two.
  • While complex sentences can seem intimidating, they're made of an independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
  • After we combine the previous two sentence types, we get a compound-complex sentence, and it's a very long sentence.

I've demonstrated what the sentence types look like up above, but the reason why they matter is because having a variety of sentence types makes your writing more interesting. Variety is the spice of life and all that. Here. I'll demonstrate.

Simple sentences are great. They're easy to read. I used a lot of them for that reason. They can be short or long. But you can do what you need with them. However, too many of them get repetitive. You can come across as clipped and curt. Long paragraphs of these become hard to read. Avoid using just one sentence type. Avoid doing this.

Then there's the opposite problem. Too many complex/long sentences.

Personally, one of my weaknesses as a writer is that my sentences average more than 15 words long. I like adding dependent clauses, phrases, and other bits and bobs because that's how my brain works. Frankly, I sometimes feel bad for anyone who has to critique my stuff because my sentences and paragraphs go on and on, and they're difficult to get through. At this point, I'm being excessive because I really need to prove my point, and hopefully, you understand it now after reading all of this.

If you notice paragraphs like the ones above, let the author know to add more variety, change it up a bit.

Ideally, there should be a balance. Longer sentences slow things down, and they can be good for drawing out moments, making your reader lean in to see what happens next. But when you need action, that's when you use short ones. Short sentences read fast. They're easy. Your reader's eyes glide over them, taking the moment in. Heck! Use fragments! Use interjections! Break the rules! A good writer knows when to break the rules. Says "Fuck the system." Doesn't this paragraph excite you, grab you by the throat?

Learning how to use sentences effectively is hard. Honestly, it comes from a lot of practice, a lot of failure, and a lot of reading. The more you read, the more you'll be exposed to authors experimenting. If you notice something you like, take note. Try and use it in your own writing.

As for critiquing this, well, it kinda is similar to writing it. It's more of a feeling than anything. You'll have to balance the writer's voice, the style of the page, the tone of the page, and the goal of the page to get a nice, cohesive piece of writing. This is something you'll have to work with the author more to get right, and there aren't really right or wrong answers. There are better and worse answers, but like always, it just depends when you're looking at a creative writing piece.

Format Critique

So format critique is probably the easiest of the three to look at. There’s pretty much one thing that pages are required to have, and that’s the license box. Here’s an example from my page “Lucky Cranes.”


License Box


License Box Open

If the page doesn’t have it, direct the author to here:

The license box should have the author’s username and any image credits the author used in their page. If they have other things that aren’t connected to these things, they can be put in a collapsible that we used to use like so:


License Box and Old Author Collapsible


License Box and Old Author Collapsible Open

Double check that all images are compatible with our license. Refer to the Image Use Policy to see what’s compatible.

Other things to be on the lookout for:

  • Text fonts and colors that are too hard to read
  • Wikidot code errors
  • Links, although be aware that any links on the sandbox are linking to pages within the sandbox unless the full URL is written out. See the Wikidot Syntax Guide for more information.
  • Or anything else that looks odd

When in doubt ask a Greenlighter or staff member for clarification!


And there you go! A quick guide on how to critique. Everyone eventually develops their own style of critique, and hopefully this gives you all the tools you need to get started. But it's okay if you make mistakes. Critiquing is a skill that needs practice, just like writing or any other skill.

If there are any questions I missed, let me know in the comments. A guide isn't good if it doesn't answer questions.

Good luck and have fun!

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