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Tip 48: 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.

Reviewers should:

• 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 e-mail, when giving face-to-face feedback).

• State your suggestion, but respect the author’s position and ownership of the text.

The next Timely Tip will address how to receive feedback from a reviewer.

Submitted by Lacey Wulf