Practical Criticism Examples

A sample for practical criticism

In my continuous effort to offer writing advice for beginners, in this post I will walk you through steps to write a practical criticism essay. I will use a specific example so that you see the practical side. You can apply the same basic steps to write a practical criticism of prose or book extract. I know most students are very keen to learn how to do it properly. 

''Practical Criticism'' can be misleading

I find the term practical criticism not best suited to define the process. The term ‘practical criticism’ gives us the impression that you must channel all your energy into criticising a written piece of work. Therefore, you must look out for all faults 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 us a demonstration to show us. She walked us through the process step by step which I also want to share with you.

To my surprise her approach turned out to be so simple and straightforward than I imagined. Once you get to grips of how to apply the process best known as the SIFT approach, you will do it exceptionally well.

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


Let’s say you are given a poem or an extract of prose, the first thing you need to do is to read it first with an understanding. This will help you to critically analyse the passage. Even if you have come across the extract before in a book you have read, assume you have no any prior knowledge and you don’t know who the author.

The purpose of writing a practical criticism essay

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

Writing Advice - Students Common Mistakes

Let me explain where most students go wrong. When they are given an extract from a book which they have already read and are already familiar with (in terms of the book’s theme, plot and storyline), there is a tendency for students to bring the background information into the practical criticism exercise. 

As a result, the student will critically analyse the extract while having this information at the back of their mind like it is part of the extract.

WRITING ADVICE ON HOW TO DO PRACTICAL CRITICISM CORRECTLY

You are not supposed to source your ideas from the information outside the extract you are given. Treat the written piece of work as if you have come across it for the first time and you don’t know any works the author might have written (outside the extract). Meaning, treat the extract as if you are reading it for the first time. 

Let's do the exercise - Shall we! 

To demonstrate how you can write a practical criticism, read an article I have written, just to serve as a sample. For the purpose of this exercise let’s read first the article Cheap Ticket Flights.

Poetry from prose

It doesn’t mean you will only deal with articles. At times students get poems based on a descriptive passage they have chosen from a piece of literature they are reading. It depends on what piece of written work you are given to analyze.

SIFT Approach for 'Cheap Flight' article 

I will analyse the Cheap Flights article using the SIFT approach. SIFT is an acronym.

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

STEP 1: SENSE

SENSE – Write A Summary of the Extract. 
Begin your practical criticism process by writing the sense of the passage you have read.

The purpose of writing a summary 

The purpose is to convince your examiner that you have understood what you have read.

How to write a summary 

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

The whole point of writing a summary is to test you if you have understood the passage. To prove your grasp of what you have read, you need to write the summary in your own words to show the vocabulary you have. Avoid reproducing the same words in the extract. 

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

How to write SENSE for 'Cheap Flights' article

The author is sharing her travel ordeals and explains 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).

STEP 2: INTENTION - A Sample for Cheap Flights

The intention is the author’s main message. What is the purpose of writing the extract, the message behind 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

STEP 3 - FEELING

Explain how the author uses words and how he describes things (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.

Avoid writing general comments

For instance, The author writes very well in this passage.” You need to pinpoint exactly what makes you feel the writing is good.

FEELING - A sample for 'Cheap Flights'

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 imply a sense 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 valuable lessons and take the necessary precautions to avoid similar pitfalls, ‘prevention is better than cure.’

STEP FOUR - TONE

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. At least the author has done something to solve this problem by sharing her lived experiences. Other travellers will learn and avoid making the same mistake after reading the story.

Conclusion

To conclude, I have received a lot of feedback from my previous post Four Ways Of Writing An Effective Practical Criticism. The general consensus is people, students to be more specific, want to hear more on this subject. So, I have written, ‘Practical Criticism Writing Advice’ in response.

Please feel free to leave any questions you may have about Practical Criticism Example post. I will be more than happy to respond as soon as I possibly can.

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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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