Monday, August 20, 2012
Suggestions and Specific Direction
The other day my husband was on his way out for a quick grocery run and asked if there was anything I wanted him to pick up while he was there.
I said, "Yeah, can you get more lemonade?"
"Sure," he said. "The same kind we had before?"
"The same exact kind, please. It's the best lemonade I've ever had and it has ruined me to all other lemonades."
"Okay. Anything else?"
After a moment of thinking, I said, "We need some fruit, like... strawberries or grapes or something. Whatever you see that looks good."
He said okay again, then off he went. When he returned, he had bought a pack of strawberries, but wasn't happy with their quality. "They're almost all bruised," he said. "And I was going to get grapes but they were too expensive."
(Side point: grapes are never worth buying unless they're on sale. I don't know why, but the regular price of grapes is an-arm-and-a-leg-and-the-rights-to-your-firstborn per pound. You'd think they were some kind of wildly exotic fruit for that price, when really, anyone could grow them in their backyard.)
I looked at the strawberries and they were, indeed, pathetic. "Why did you buy these?" I said.
"Because you said you wanted strawberries."
"No," I said between sips of lemonade. "I said I wanted fruit. You could have bought something else, like nectarines or plums or whatever, if the strawberries were no good and the grapes were too expensive."
He shrugged. And that was the end of it.
The point of all this? There is a difference between a suggestion and a specific direction. I had given my husband one of each. I specifically asked for a certain type of lemonade, and specifically asked for fruit.
I only suggested that strawberries (or cheap grapes) would qualify as an acceptable fruit choice. I never said, specifically, that I must have strawberries.
The same goes for critiques. Sometimes you will receive specific direction to change something. This is usually the case in technical errors, like misspelled words, grammar flubs, and comma abuse.
But the bulk of a critique is usually suggestions from that particular reader. They may suggest you add something specific, or they may suggest you remove something specific, but that doesn't mean that what they're telling you is specific direction to be followed to the letter. It is still only a suggestion.
And when you are given a suggestion, the final choice on the matter is up to YOU, not the other person.
The better you understand this, the easier it will become for you to both give and receive feedback on writing.