In my writing group, we use the 3-2-1 system for giving critiques. We start off our critiques talking about good things. Then, when we’re ready to jump into criticism, we start with level 3 comments–meaning comments that are such large problems that you would put the piece down and not pick it back up (if you were a reader), or you would reject it (if you were an editor). When we’ve gotten through those, we move on to level 2 comments, or things that bothered you, but weren’t deal-breakers. Then we move onto level 1–the small things that probably don’t matter that much, the copyediting stuff, the little itches you want to talk about but probably don’t make a difference in the sale of the piece.
If you have ever been in a writing group that focuses too much on sentence-l
evel problems and not enough on the big picture, perhaps this tip might be useful to you!