All serious writers find it necessary to have someone read their draft and offer useful comments. Each honest, critical reviewer has a hand in helping a writer turn his draft into a piece of literary excellence. You may even see your name listed in the credits someday.
If you find a piece you consider wonderful, and your comment is ‘this is wonderful!’, and give it five stars, that is not a critique, that is praise. We all do it and sometimes the item is perfect, there really isn’t any more to say. The author would like to be told though, why you think it’s wonderful. Is it the story? The characters? Did you relate to the plot, or did it make you laugh or cry?
I love praise. Everyone needs a good dose regularly. Praise is my pay for writing; but after all, I joined the site to learn the meat and potatoes of writing. If I also receive a little praise, that’s the gravy.
What makes a good story, in the end, is the interpretation of the reader. Everyone is not going to like or agree with everything they read. A good reviewer reads objectively. The writer doesn’t need your rating or your opinion on either his opinion or his choice of subject, he needs it on how well he wrote the piece. After he’s published, you can choose whether to buy it or not.
Writers must be able to trust their reviewers. Most authors on the site are working toward publication, and their aim is for the item to be the best it can be. Be honest and encouraging. They can get there without you, but it will be much more difficult.
Honest and constructive critiques are important to both the reviewer and the author. As we learn to read critically, we are learning to write more intelligently. Reading critically helps you to become aware of how you, as a reader, respond.
When I read an item I critique it seriously, as completely as possible with two intentions. The first is to help the author to the best of my abilities. I help in the areas I can. I don't attempt to cover all the issues of a critique because I don't have the knowledge.
The second is for me, it helps with my own writing. As I read a story and notice things that may need changing, then read my own items, I can more easily see where I have made the same mistakes.
By rating honestly -- and providing the all important constructive criticism, we do a great job of helping everyone. It is always better to rate honestly, regardless of age. If we were to rate highly, and a younger member submitted an item to their English teacher, expecting an "A" and got back a "D", that wouldn't be good at all, would it?
On the other end, if it is an older person, and they're rated a "5" when they deserve a "3", then if they submit their item to a publisher or publication and get a scathing rejection letter, they'll be devastated.
Hopefully, while you are helping others by pointing out mistakes and corrections and giving suggestions, it helps you to explore your own writing style and learn what you like and don't like as you go. Reviewing is one of the best ways to improve your own writing and creative processes. So keep that in mind when you're doing it... remember to take it in for yourself as well as the author you're reviewing.
So you see, learning to give a good review is critical to both the review’er and review’ee.