Comment Support #4B - Structuring Comments

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Many thanks to the below for joining our fourth session on
Structuring comments and avoiding upsetting artists

:iconpawcanada: :iconfae-oaksdaughter: :icon0basesbrosonicboom0: :icon5minmouusepad: :iconsketchingdragon: :iconbrianimations: :iconiamnohere: :iconado-mi:

What happened last week?

Keys: :bulletred: issues you may experience; :bulletgreen: solutions and tips to resolve them

How to choose your words?

:bulletred: Expressing a point of view is something subjective and personal, and your outlook may turn out to be strongly opinionated and unequivocal.

:bulletgreen: Remember that a comment is personal : another commenter might not share your point of view. It means you have to present your points as opinions rather than unshakeable facts.
As a fact: ”The structure of your work is unbalanced and breaks the harmony, you should change it to …”
As an opinion: To me, the structure of your work could be more balanced. I believe you could add some harmony by working on …”
:bulletgreen: Use neutral terms and a “non pejorative” vocabulary: even if you think something could be improved, never use judgmental or offensive words.
:bulletgreen: Do not give orders, but present your ideas as suggestions: avoid using imperative forms (e.g., ”Do that” ; ”You have to do that” ; etc), and privilege modals such as “should”.

How to anticipate the artist’s reaction?

:bulletred: As pawcanada said, “For the commentor, what makes sense to you now while the comment is fresh in your mind may not six hours or a day later.”

:bulletgreen: Draft your comment, and proofread it later on.
:bulletgreen: Read your comment as if you were the artist, and ask yourself if any of your words could be misinterpreted. If so, change them to something else.
:bulletgreen: If you want more evidence of the artist’s reaction, you can read the artist’s reaction to other constructive comments to have a more objective view of the way they usually react to critiques and suggestions of improvement.
:bulletgreen: Your last tool is to ask for a peer’s review: a friend or a family member can always help. If you would like an in-depth review, feel free to contact ProjectComment’s Ultimate Comment Support team.

Is there anything that may help “smooth” a comment?

:bulletred: Having a sort of “additional disclaimer” may reinforce the message of helpfulness you want to convey.

:bulletgreen: Being supportive of the artist throughout the comment helps greatly. Feel free to add little sentences such as “don’t give up, if you improve on this and that, you will succeed!” to balance with the suggestions of improvement.
:bulletgreen: A statement that your comment is meant to help the artist could be useful, especially if you have trouble seizing the whole impact your words may have (e.g. I hope this helps! Please note my comment isn’t meant to be offensive in any way. If my words sound harsh, I’m sorry! Feel free to let me know, so I can improve!”).

:note: This mention does not replace a neutral and well-structured comment. This is only meant as an addition.
If your comment is highly pejorative and/or judgmental, including the above won’t help you in any way. In fact, it may make things worse. They only work if the artist feels you are trying to be as helpful as possible, in a benevolent way.

How to handle an upset artist?

:bulletred: Sometimes, despite all your efforts, the artist might react in a hostile and upset way.

:bulletgreen: Read your comment again, and try to understand what might have been misinterpreted. If you find anything ambiguous, try to work on reducing all ambiguity in your next comments.
:bulletgreen: If you don’t understand what happened, feel free to contact ProjectComment’s admins through the Ultimate Comment Support project, so they can review your comment and let you know how to improve.
:bulletgreen: You can kindly apologize to the artist, but if you think you can’t remain calm during the conversation, DO NOT continue chatting with them. Do not reply at all, as that can exacerbate the problem. Instead, don’t reply and move on.

:bulletred: Sometimes, the artist only wants praise.

:bulletgreen: If you happen to encounter such an artist, where the suggestions you’ve made are looked down on despite your goodwill and efforts, consider the fact that these suggestions might cause an artist to think about issues later on. So, in the end, you did what you set out to do!

As SketchingDragon noticed, ”Comments that help you feel good, often don't help you get better. And comments that help you get better, don't often feel good."

More to think about…

Zara-Arletis, “First and foremost, when commenting, I look for whether or not the artist indicated they want feedback. Generally, if the deviation is posted to a critique or comment group, I assume the artist wants to hear the good and bad about their piece. Easiest is when they *say* they want feedback in the description.

Second, I tend to layer my critique or review - good, then bad alternating - this way, the artist knows I'm not hunting for flaws and they are reassured there is good in there too.

Third, and maybe most important, I differentiate between actual errors and my opinion. If someone misspells handkerchief as handkerchief, I'm going to point it out as a correction. If the phrasing of a sentence feels off, or the dialogue is stiff, I give my recommendation - not correction - and the reason for it.

Sometimes, an artist will still be offended or get defensive about their work. They feel misunderstood, or that you, the commenter, are nitpicking. I think it's important if they reply this way to apologize for any misunderstanding and reiterate that these are suggestions and opinions. If an artist has specific questions about your critique, answer them without getting defensive or frustrated. Never argue. It's always up to the artist how seriously they want to take your critique and there's no point in trying to convince them about it.”

Metanaito-kyou, “If you do happen to upset the artist, you can always apologize. Saying something like:
"I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. You wanted constructive criticism and I did my best to give you some. I did not mean to offend you. Feel free to ignore my critique." "

Kaotic-Cass, “Generally, I've found that 95% of all artists are pretty kind about receiving comments when they're written in a way that shows the viewer genuinely wants to help them improve and is kind.
But when you do run across an artist who gets upset. I've always tried to reread what I wrote and find a better way to phrase what I meant, and apologize for any misunderstanding/hurt feelings.
Nothing is 100% perfect. But being nice and framing a comment well goes a long way.”

astarayel, “I like to offer a constructive comment sandwich: praise critique praise. I think hearing positive things about our art helps cushion the blow of "Well this isn't quite right." In particular, I like to communicate a friendly and supportive tone so that my critique isn't read as "Wow you are so horrible" but as "Wow, you are doing great! Here's how to become even better." If the artist does get upset, try to understand from their perspective why: was your tone a bit unkind? Did you fail to provide explanations for what needs to be improved or how? If, after that introspection, you think that your critique has been fair and kind, but the artist is still upset, don't continue a conversation that might just lead to more hurt feelings.”

Please take as much time as you need to think about everything we have said here, and feel free to ask questions! Nocturnaliss and Tuntalm are always up for a chat! :dummy:
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RaizaNoelia's avatar
Loved this journal. Great insight!