While gushing is nice to receive once and awhile, if you're asked to give feedback and all you're giving is praise, you're not being helpful.
Praise then raise. Tell the writer what you liked about the piece then raise the bar a bit higher. Be specific. Cut and paste examples.
Here are some things I like to receive as criticism:
- How are the opening 3-5 sentences?
- How is the dialogue?
- Mechanics – Grammar, spelling and punctuation
- Are the characters real to you or cookie-cutter?
- Are there problems with my time line or plot?
- Don't attack the writer! Writing is art. Writing is free speech. People can write about what they want * and if you don't like to read it, that's your right. I believe the concentration camps of WWII existed but not everyone does. That doesn't make the writer a Nazi. They may write about homosexuality, that doesn't make the writer gay. NO NAME CALLING ALLOWED!
- Don't lie to the writer. If the writing is really bad, don't tell them that it's good. Be nice about it. Suggest they take a course on grammar or buy writing books. Explain a writing rule to them.
*The only exception I may make to the rule above (and as of yet, I've never come across this) is if a writer frequently (over many poems or stories) promotes terrorist ideologies, pedophilia, or violent hatred towards a person or group of people (because of religion, color, gender, or race), or if I feel he's crying out for help (suicide). I don't know what I'd do in that situation but I may ask them to get help. What would you do?
Here's a good quote from Toxic Feedback by Joni B Cole:
Picture source: here