Four Ways to Provide Effective Writing Feedback
Writers are often asked to critique or provide feedback on others’ writing. This situation can be difficult. It is hard to know exactly how robustly to critique another writer’s work. You don’t want to crush anyone’s dream or give false praise when it isn’t warranted. Do you concentrate on grammar, style, or the message? It’s a tricky situation, especially if the person asking is a friend or colleague.
However, you can offer an incredible service to other writers if you give feedback constructively. Writing so often happens in a vacuum. Authors need a fresh perspective to help identify both what’s working and what isn’t.
Use these tips:
1. Ask what kind of feedback would be the most helpful. If the writers says “Everything”, suggest that you’ll look at clarity and flow of the ideas. A critique should focus on the ideas and their expression, not grammar issues and picky sentence structure. Grammatical edits are best done by a professional editor. Editors are paid to deliver the sad news about typos and run on sentences. Volunteers offering critiques don’t have to go into that level of detail.
2. First look for the strengths. Share what you liked the best or what stood out for you.
3. Next, talk about 1-2 opportunities for improvement. Giving just a couple specific suggestions is more helpful than saying “You need to make this more concise.” For example:
• “On page twenty-two, I was confused by the line about negotiating for a larger salary. It would be helpful to clarify that section for readers.”
• “I found the villain to be a little boring. Can you make him more dangerous or evil?”
• “Your readers might like a summary at the end of each chapter.”
4. Close with a question. Ask the author how they felt about the work if they enjoyed writing it, or what part of the writing means the most to them. Using a question here helps you to make your critique a discussion instead of an evaluation. That feels good to everyone.
You can use these four steps to confidently give feedback to writers of every level, from beginner to novice. You’ll provide positive reinforcement, concrete suggestions, and the opportunity to dialog about the writing. Providing that information is an excellent gift for your fellow authors, who should be delighted to return the favor the next time you’d like some feedback on your latest creation.
What about you? Tell us about the best writing feedback you ever received, and why it was helpful. Your story will help us all!