‘Brutal’ Honesty? Thanks, but no thanks

I’m always on the lookout for critique partners.

I even joined a Goodreads group dedicated to matching up partners.

My only response, so far, is from a person who prided themselves on their ‘brutal honesty’. I declined the offer.


The phrase ‘brutal honesty’ has come to represent something I intensely dislike in my critiques, and that is people acting like being a jerk somehow makes what they have to say more true.

I love honesty. Tell me what’s wrong.  But pointing out flaws shouldn’t be accompanied by insults.  And yes, I will give an example of what I mean.

Let’s say that I’m reading a text and I notice an author repeating a descriptor (We all do it. You get an image in your head and boom, you’re using that word over and over). Highliting the repeated word with a note about ‘You seem caught in a loop here’ is pointing out a mistake.

Telling the author that they need to learn to vary their vocabulary if they want to be taken seriously is not ‘brutal honesty’. It’s being a jerk.

bitch alert

And people are less likely to listen to your, admittedly, legitimate points about their writing if you’re being a jerk.

People who use the phrase ‘brutally honest’ to describe themselves tend to be the kind the people who write those types of critiques.

i'm done with you

I don’t want to cringe when I get an email from a critique partner. I want to be excited that someone read my work and is helping me to improve it.

Yes, that means I’ll have to hear about characters that aren’t working, plot holes, and poorly written passages.


But every rough draft will have those things. That’s why we have to revise. Insulting the author while you point out the flaws in their work doesn’t make you a better critique partner.

Seriously, did you expect  anything less of me?

It might be unfair of me not to give this person a shot. I might be missing out on great commentary on my work.

But I’d rather not deal with the hassle of ‘brutal’ honesty. I have enough doubts about my writing without having to read insults about it, and myself, daily.

writing is hard

2 thoughts on “‘Brutal’ Honesty? Thanks, but no thanks

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