As an eTips subscriber, you actively work to improve your own writing and may even need to help coworkers improve theirs. That’s an honor, but also a responsibility. Your feedback should simultaneously strengthen the writing and build trust with the writer.
How can I provide effective feedback?
Effective feedback is on-target, specific, and supportive. To provide it, follow these tips:
1. Review the writing task. Learn what the subject, purpose, and audience are for the writing in question. Read the work twice or three times, preferably away from the writer.
2. Connect with the writer. Let the person know that you are on the same side with the same goal—producing the most effective piece of writing. Remind them that revision is a part of any writing project—perhaps the most impactful part.
3. Focus first on positives. Doing so creates a cooperative environment. Also, if you’ve praised one part, the writer will be more willing to listen when you criticize another part.
Don't Say: The opening is no good.
Do Say: The ideas in the middle are critical. Let's make sure the opening sums up those ideas for the reader.
4. Focus on the writing, not on the writer. Talk about the ideas, organization, voice, words, and sentences.
Don't Say: You have a problem right at the start.
Do Say: Let’s think of a way to capture the reader’s attention right at the start.
5. Use pronouns carefully. Avoid using you or your when discussing problems because these pronouns can sound accusatory. Instead, use we, us, and our to show that you are on the writer's side.
Don't Say: You’re constantly writing in the passive voice.
Do Say: If we make these sentences active, we could really energize the writing.
6. State negatives in positive terms. Build on what is good. Focus on solutions rather than problems, on strategies rather than issues.
Don't Say: The closing is horrible.
Do Say: The middle has so much great information. In the closing, let's give a clear call to action so that readers know what to do with it.
Don't Say: What a mess! I can’t figure out what you are doing here.
Do Say: What’s the most important idea to get across here?
7. Be specific. Let the writer know exactly what is and isn’t working.
Don't Say: Good job on revising the opening. That’s really good. Good work.
Do Say: The new opening really captures my attention and leads cleanly into the middle section.
Sharpen Your Management Writing
The tips above and the activity that follows come from Executive Writing, an asynchronous online writing course from Write for Business. Managers use Executive Writing to sharpen their writing and earn continuing education credit.