Many books on critiquing point to a simple difference between destructive and constructive criticism. Destructive criticism tends to focus on identifying weaknesses in a piece of writing or in the creator of it without offering a constructive idea or suggestion for improvement. With constructive criticism, the seeds of improvement are contained within the criticism itself. Criticism may also be positive and identify how to build on already existing strengths. Most howerver tend to associate it with negative criticism:
Destructive: That poem was almost as boring as you, the author.
Constructive: The poem was somewhat repetitive and might benefit from an edit.
Criticism can stay on the side of politeness and be neither constructive or destructive. Playing too “safe” doesn’t help a writer to improve: “That was quite nice!”
In my view constructive criticism need not be “soft” and colluding with mediocrity. But neither does it need to seek to destroy the writer or their work. Where criticism is very harsh it should also offer constructive pointers to improvement. I ask: What is your motive for criticising?
What if you just hate a piece of writing but have noi ideas or suggestions on how to improve it? In my view, in a group or a community, one should check with the writer if they wish to hear an opinion that might appear to be “harsh” and not constructive. Public destructive criticism is, in my view, always damaging unless the person who is on the receiving end is able and/or willing to take it. So ask first.
Please feel free to critique these thoughts!