Zyn's Crit Tips - Part II - Reviewing Overhaul Works
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Hello again! This is ZynZyn, admin for the SCP wiki, captain of the Forum Criticism Team/Butterfly Squad εїз εїз here with some more tips on critiquing. In this page, I’ll cover how to respond to SCP article drafts that need a serious overhaul of some kind (i.e., have a lot of immediately identifiable errors) before the author can expect them to do well on the site.

General note: these tips are for anyone and everyone, newbies and veterans alike!

General note II: these tips are geared towards giving feedback in the drafts critique forum: http://www.scp-wiki.net/forum/c-50864

General note III: these are not rules! These are suggestions on how to productively and efficiently (read: potentially 5 minutes or less!) critique SCP drafts that need a lot of work to reach mainsite standards.

Here we go!

Overall tips/things to keep in mind:

1. IMPORTANT: you are not here to rewrite the article for the author. Even if you see a metric ton of errors, it’s not the reviewers’ responsibility to tell the author about each and every one. Writing assistance tools like Grammarly and in-browser spellcheckers can do a fair bit of simple edit fixes automatically, and all authors on the site should be able to learn the basics of clinical tone and proper conceptualization by themselves.

2. Don’t assume knowledge of buzzwords. If the tone of a draft is extremely casual, telling an author “your clinical tone is off” won’t help them improve their writing much. Similarly, telling someone they have a “generic cursed magic object” might just result in confusion, especially if that’s what they wanted to write and they’re not sure why it’s an issue.

(2.5) Catchphrase critique, while succinct, typically isn’t specific enough to explain how an author can improve their particular work. Similarly, don’t just throw links to guides at an author. Your review should match the draft at hand, rather than being easily swapped between any other draft.

3. Don’t overwhelm the author, and don’t overwhelm yourself. Drafts in need of overhaul should not take a long time to review; rather, they should be among the fastest things because the author can do a lot of the basic fixes themselves after some studying on their own. Additionally, there’s no need to laundry list out a wall of shame for why a piece is bad—you want the author to feel like they’re capable of improving on their own rather than relying on reviewers for everything.

Now on to the basics: when responding to a draft in need of some serious overhaul, rather than avalanching the author with all the things they did wrong, try to keep things simple and focus on addressing two things: concept and execution.

Concept and Execution. What are those?

Concept is basically what the article is about. What is the anomaly? And if applicable, what is the story the author is telling with it?

  • Common major issues with concepts include:
    • Stuff the audience has seen a lot already (objects like powered-up humanoids, generic cursed magic items, things that kill you for no reason)
    • Overly predictable premise/storyline
    • Item that doesn’t seem that anomalous
    • Heavy usage of copyrighted material or other work that the author borrows extensively from
  • Tools that can be recommended to address conceptual issues include:
  • Important: if you’re not certain if something is a unique or workable concept, own up to it! Just tell the author “I personally liked/didn’t like this idea, but I don’t know for sure if the rest of the audience has this same perspective.”
  • Also important: if you really like something about the concept, tell the author! Maybe the humanoid is super boring and cliché, but his goofy enlightened tapeworm sidekick is great and you’d rather read about that. You shouldn’t need to go hunting for something nice to say, but if something stands out that you like, be honest about it so the author knows what to focus on.

Execution is how the article is written. This can include grammar, mechanics, formatting, tone, and organization.

  • Common major issues with execution include:
    • An abundance of simple grammar and mechanics errors (confusing “it’s” with “its”)
    • Improper formatting (unintentionally does not use proper article headings, lack of paragraph spaces, superhuge images)
    • Casual, rather than clinical, tone (sounds like a teenager explaining a video game rather than a professional scientist writing an official report)
  • Lack of proper scientific portrayal (containment procedures that don’t make sense, scientists acting like idiots, Foundation personnel somehow knowing everything about an SCP even though they shouldn’t)
    • Sloppy organization (descriptive content in the containment procedures, excessive background content before the item itself and its anomaly are explained, lots of extra fluff details that can be trimmed down or removed entirely)
  • Tools that can be recommended to address execution issues include:
  • Important: if you’re not super familiar with clinical tone, site formatting, or advanced writing yourself, let the author know! A statement like “I’m not an expert on scientific writing, but the clinical tone looks fine to me” is more helpful (and less likely to be misleading) than “the clinical tone is good”.

And now time for some examples! Remember, a good review both identifies issues and helps the author figure out how to fix those issues. Disclaimer: do not copy-paste these responses word-for-word as your own feedback.

Example of response to a draft where the concept and execution both need work:

Example of response to a draft where the concept is good, and the execution needs work:

Example of response to a draft where the concept needs work, and the execution is good:

Above all: make sure that your critique is actionable! That means that the author knows what to do next when fixing their article, not just knowing that there's a lot that needs fixing.

Thanks for reading! And remember, helpful reviews keep the community alive and thriving!

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