Although dictionaries list critique and criticism as synonyms, the words are not exact equivalents.
Perhaps because it’s two letters shorter, headline writers often use critique when criticism would be the more appropriate choice.
Take the following example:
News Anchor Fiercely and Succinctly Claps [sic] Back at a Viewer’s Critique of Her Appearance
Here is the so-called “critique”:
All the female reporters and anchors wear little to no jewelry but B Ciara wears the biggest and worst jewelry I have ever seen, please have her play by all same rules as every one else.
The viewer’s petty comment is not a critique. It is a criticism.
The word critique connotes a detailed analysis that describes and weighs the characteristics of something before drawing conclusions based on evidence and inference.
The type of critique I’m most familiar with analyzes and evaluates a piece of writing. Other kinds of critiques are written by political analysts, scientific theorists, and philosophers.
A critique considers positive aspects of a subject as well as negative ones. A critique’s conclusion may be negative, but the critic will have demonstrated a line of reasoning that led to it.
The meanings of critique and criticism overlap, but criticism is already used in a general sense to refer to an expression of mere disapproval or faultfinding. It seems desirable to reserve the word critique to refer to a detailed and thoughtful analysis.
Here are some alternative choices for criticism in the sense of censure: