Today’s Tip is brought to you by Lacey Wulf, Technical Writer at Shea Writing and Training Solutions, who helps you “create clarity out of chaos, one sentence at a time.”
How to Give Feedback on Someone Else’s Writing
If co-workers ask you to give them feedback on their writing, it can either be a pleasant experience or create tension in the workplace. Here are suggestions for successfully communicating helpful input while maintaining a community of respect.
• Be specific.
Instead of “This document is confusing,” say, “In section 5, the specific management roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.”
• Be tactful.
Instead of “This is horribly written,” say, “This document states the requirement, but it doesn’t specify how to accomplish the requirement.”
• Focus on the author’s areas of concerns.
Comment first on clarity, content, and organization before commenting on lower-level issues, such as punctuation.
• Ask questions to provoke further thought.
Does this requirement also apply to ___ situation? Have you considered including a section about ____?
• Offer solutions to any issues that you might raise.
This sentence seems out of place. Consider putting it at the beginning of the section.
• When appropriate, acknowledge strengths as well as weaknesses (e.g., in the body
of an email, when giving face-to-face feedback).
• State your suggestion, but respect the author’s position and ownership of the text.
After being a member of various writers’ critique groups over the years, I have found that if you offer constructive suggestions for improvement sandwiched in between two compliments or pieces of positive feedback, that sandwich is generally swallowed quite easily by the writer, i.e., no tears.
As Mary Poppins likes to sing: “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
Shea’s next Timely Tip will address how to receive feedback from a reviewer. Stay
Profound Quote of the Day:
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
– Ken Blanchard, American businessman, author of the book The One Minute Manager, b. 1939