Practical Criticism Examples


In my continuous effort to help you with writing tips for beginners, I will walk you through the steps of doing a practical criticism. I’m going to use a specific example so that you have a feel of the practical side.

You can apply the same basic steps to write a practical criticism of prose or book extract.

Most visitors to this site have asked me to demonstrate how to do a practical criticism properly. 


The term ”Practical Criticism” can be misleading. Personally, I see it not the best fit to describe how a practical criticism should be written.

Practical Criticism gives us the impression that you must channel all your energy into criticising a written piece of work. Therefore, your aim is to look out for mistakes in a critical (negative) way. 

Many critics have a bad reputation as butchers who delight in ripping the work of others to pieces...
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What is practical criticism?

I began to fully understand how to write a practical criticism the day my then English teacher gave demonstrated to us. She walked us through the process step by step. I also want to share this with you.

To my surprise, my teacher’s approach turned out to be so simple and easy to follow than I had anticipated.

Once you get to grips with how to apply the  4-step process, SIFT approach, you will be able to write a good analysis.

I hope by the time you finish reading this post, you will know exactly how to critically analyse any piece of written work that gets thrown to you, be it prose or a poem.


Let’s say you’ve been assigned to critically analyse a poem or an extract of prose, you need to take these steps.

  1. Firstly, read the passage with an understanding. Even if you’ve come across the extract before in a book you’ve read, assume you have no prior knowledge to it including the author.


  1. To test students’ responsiveness to what they read.
  2. To test students’ knowledge of verse forms and the technical language for describing and the effects they create.
  3. To objectively test the effects of literature on readers.


Why students get it wrong? The root cause of the problem is when students are presented with an extract from a book they have already read. A book they’re already familiar with, (in terms of the book’s theme, plot and storyline).

Most students will have the tendency to carryover the background information and use it for the practical criticism exercise. 

As a result, students will critically analyse the passage while having this information at the back of their mind as if its part of the extract.


  • Avoid sourcing ideas from information outside the extract you’re presented with.
  • Treat the written piece of work as if you have come across it for the first time and not aware of any other works the author might have written (outside the extract).
  • Basically, treat the extract as if you are reading it for the first time. 


To walk you through the steps on how to  write a practical criticism, read Cheap Ticket Flights article, a writing example.

Please note, for the purpose of this exercise you need to read Cheap Ticket Flights article first.


Practical criticism is not only centred on articles. Sometimes students get assigned to critically analyse poem extracts or pieces of literature.

It all depends on what piece of written work they’re given to critically appreciate.


Analysing the article “Cheap Ticket Flights” using the SIFT approach. SIFT acronym stands for:

  1. Sense
  2. Intention
  3. Feeling
  4. Tone 


SENSE – Write A Summary of the Extract. 
Assuming you’ve ready the passage, you start your practical criticism process with writing the SENSE (summary).


The purpose of writing a summary is to convince your examiner that you have understood the passage you have read.


A summary is an abstract, shortening a passage or a write-up without changing its meaning using different words and sentences
Writing Help for Beginners In Practical criticism

The whole point of writing a summary is to test you to see if you have understood the passage.

To prove that you’ve grasped what read, write the summary in your own words as this shows the vocabulary that you have. Avoid reproducing (repeating) the same words used in the extract. 

Instead, use synonyms. Usually, you are given a specific number of word count. After writing your summary, write the number of words you have used.


The author is sharing her travel ordeals, explaining how she bought a genuine flight ticket in the end. Initially, she had bought a ticket from a bogus website that posed as the official Ethiopian Airlines. This happened the time the author travelled abroad on an emergency trip without proper planning resulting in making hasty preparations. Finally, after a prolonged struggle, the author managed to get a genuine flight ticket with outsourced help. The author's intention is to share lessons learned, that before you buy an air flight online you must cross check if the website is genuine (95 words).


Intention stands for the author’s main message. What is the main message from the passage or poem? 

The author's intention is to warn travellers of scam websites that are selling fake tickets. Also, the author wants to give advice through hints and tips. Also, to emphasise the importance of doing a thorough search to verify if an agent is genuine or fake before buying tickets online.
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A Sample


How do you feel when you read the extract?Explain how the author makes you feel through words and the way he describes things? The (level of skill shown) and how it makes you feel as a reader (the effect it has on you).

  • Are you able to feel it from the vocabulary the author uses?
  • Does the author’s writing skills give you a vivid picture?
  • Avoid making generalised statements.


For instance, The author writes very well in this passage.” Be specific and pinpoint exactly what makes you feel the writing is good.


The author seems disappointed with what she did. I get this from the words the author uses ‘stupid mistake and common thinking mistakes.’ These words have an implication of regret and disappointment. 

'I know I did a stupid mistake by going ahead to purchase a ticket online without carrying out the necessary checks.'
''I don’t know if its one of the common thinking mistakes our brains to make every day.'

Here the author seems frustrated by what people do. They keep repeating the same mistakes instead of learning some valuable lessons and take necessary precautions to avoid similar pitfalls. Prevention is better than cure.


What is the tone that comes across through author’s quality of voice? Is the author expressing his feelings or thoughts towards the person being spoken to?

In the end, the author seems to have hope for the future.

'Hopefully, by sharing this, many people who are planning to travel in the future will not make the same silly mistakes, as I did.

Here the author seems pleased with her actions. By sharing her lived experiences, the author is helping others to avoid falling in the same trap, a recurring problem. Other travellers will learn to avoid making the same mistake.


To conclude, I have received a lot of feedback on my article Four Ways Of Writing An Effective Practical Criticism. The general consensus from my site visitors is that they need more information  on this subject.

Hopefully, my post  ‘Practical Criticism Writing Advice’ is informative. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have and I will be more than happy to respond as soon as possible.

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6 Comments to “Practical Criticism Examples”

  1. Tendy says:

    Hello, Femia, thank you so much for writing an excellent example of how to do or write a practical criticism step by step.
    It makes a lot of sense doing the exercise after reading your post. I like the way you have explained it in a simple and easy language to grasp.
    I will bookmark your post and I am pleased I will no longer struggle with my school homework when it comes to doing a practical criticism

    1. Femia says:

      Hello, Tendy, many thanks for leaving some valuable feedback on my post ‘Practical Criticism Example.’
      I am glad I have brought the solution to your homework problem.
      All the best for your studies.

  2. Hillary says:

    Hello, Femia
    I resonate with almost everything you said about writing a practical criticism.
    I am also one of the students who dislike doing the exercise so much.
    However, I don’t think I will remain the same after reading this post which takes me to step by step showing how I can do a practical criticism.
    I find your blog so informative.
    I have already seen where I was getting it all wrong. For example, treating extracts I am given to critically analyze as if they were information I already knew having read it elsewhere.
    Now I know that I need to deal with any given extract without bringing in the knowledge I have read elsewhere. Instead, I should view the extract before me as completely new as if I haven’t read it before.
    Thanks a lot for making me realise my mistakes.

    1. Femia says:

      Hello, first of all, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving some very encouraging comments.
      I am pleased to hear that you gained a few things from my post, ‘Practical Criticism example’.
      Keep on doing practice on how to use the SIFT approach. You will see that you become better with more practice that you do. All the best!
      Once again, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Ade says:

    Hi, I’m having a great difficulty understanding these questions. I need to know what I am expected to do.

    Attempt a thorough critique of the selected excerpt of drama narrative using practical criticism with copious examples.

    In the second question, he said: attempt a thorough critique of any of the selected excerpt of the dramatic genre using practical criticism with copious examples.

    I don’t know what I’m meant to do.

    1. Femia says:

      Hello, thank you for reading my post, ‘Practical Criticism Examples.’

      I am glad you found the information helpful.

      From what I gather from your question you need to do a critique or a practical criticism of the excerpt you are given. To do this practical criticism exercise, you do it in steps.

      Step 1 – Summarise the excerpt using your own words. The summary gives a background context.

      Step 2 – Explain what the author’s intention is or the main message behind (theme).

      Step 3 -How does the author make you feel through his/her use of language, imagery, metaphors or examples?

      Step 4 – What tone comes across, is it a tone of joy, celebrations or sorrow.

      Copious meaning is abundant in supply or quantity. For example, ‘she took copious notes.’

      You are supposed to give many examples.

      Hopefully, this answers your question. Please let me know if there is still something you need to be clarified.

      Once again, many thanks for stopping by.

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