Many of us are open to it, we love getting feedback and want to improve. Any comment is appreciated. As SirBic says: “Effective feedback can be any feedback; writers just want to be read.”
But if you are going for comments that make a difference, consider how you present it. In the cautious words of August Rode: “You may run into authors who don’t want criticism. They’ll likely tell you so. If they ask you not to critique their work, don’t do so in future.” As a writer, the hardest thing to do is to offer up something you put a great deal of effort into and find it smashed to bits along with your pride. So as a commenter, how should you get the word across that something needs work?August Rode: “There are many levels on which a piece can be critiqued. On the 1st reading, I’ll usually catch all of the spelling and grammatical errors. With the trivial problems out of the way, I’ll read the piece over several more times. I’m usually looking at flow, pace, consistency across the entire piece, and the effectiveness with which the ideas in the story are communicated.”
I completely agree. You may include any of these in your critique.
One way to break the bad news: The Oreo Cookie Method. Sandwich your critique in among two things you found the writer did WELL. While I prefer the icing in the middle and find it to be the best part of the cookie, the idea here is to put the bad things you want to say in the middle of two good things to lessen the blow.
This doesn’t always work out. Firstly, some stories don’t have anything good to compliment, and if that’s the case, be gentle. Secondly, if you use this method consistently, people may mistrust your real compliments. They may think you are hiding behind what you really want to say.
Another way to critique is a twist on the Feldman method for Art. This makes for not only great negative feedback critiques but also positive.
Describe: tell the writer what confused you, what images you saw as the reader. The goal of the writer is to communicate to the reader exactly what they see in their head, and believe it or not, you CAN do this in 1,024 characters! Sometimes the writer doesn’t realize how confusing their work really is. “I get that the MC is in a lighthouse, but why is it urgent that they jump?”
Analyze: Are there grammar or spelling errors? Do they use the elements of story well? Does the POV work (first, third)? Do the character’s action or dialogue match their emotions?
Interpret: Does the piece evoke an emotion, have a theme, or relate to a certain audience (parents, religious, YA) well? Can you follow what the writer was saying? Are you confused as to what is going on?
Evaluate: Did your reaction to the work change as you read it? Did you learn something? Was there no moral, no anchor to reality; was this intentional?
(For how to deal with biting criticism, see http://ficly.com/blog/comments-and-courtesy-the-recap for a three step method to chilling out by our fearless leader THX.)