Real Simple's etiquette expert gives advice on how to be honest without being cruel.

Q. My best friend is very serious about writing screenplays. Recently he gave me his first real script and asked me for feedback. I read it and, unfortunately, wasn’t impressed. How do I speak to him about it honestly without seeming like an awful friend?

Elaine Candle

New York City

A. Start by pleading ignorance as a layperson without expertise in this area. (I’m assuming you’re not a writing or film professional.) Then tell your friend one thing that you liked about the script: “My favorite part was when…” Finally, say in a compassionate tone, “There are a couple of areas that I was unsure about. But bear in mind that I’m not a big sci-fi fan. You might want to ask additional readers to give you feedback.” It’s also useful to remind your friend that no one person—not even someone as discerning as you!—should be the sole arbiter of someone’s creative work.

—Michelle Slatalla