Principles for Critiquing? Or Bone-crushing Reviews?

On June 14, 1922, Warren G. Harding became the first U.S. President to have his voice transmitted by radio. This did not impress journalist H. L. Mencken, who said of Harding, “He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”

Mencken proved he could string words together, but what did he accomplish? We don’t find anything in them that is constructive or redemptive? Are they simply for pomp and show, like some kind of destructive political posturing?

Early Roman poet, Juvenal, is credited with developing Satire, but his was so darkly pessimistic and scathing, it is said that his own father-in-law killed himself after being criticized by Juvenal’s pen.

We don’t know the author of this rhyme, although Ruth Bell Graham is credited as often quoting it: “Be careful of the words you say, So keep them soft and sweetYoull never know from day to day; Which ones youll have to eat.”

An unwritten code should exist between all humans, not just writers, that communication should support and build each other up, not tear down.

The refrain in U.S. Colonial History was, “No taxation without representation”. People with the freedom to think, write, and speak should be responsible to do so wisely. Whether we embrace the Golden Rule or not, its words apply in writing and in life, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When I served as a school principal, I taught my teachers to write report cards to present the most serious problem in a positive and encouraging way so there was some chance for success. It certainly achieved better results than magnifying the problem.

Whether you’re in a critique group, a neighborhood committee, or other social platform, please share your best example of how wise and kind words made surviving a difficult situation possible.

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