Feedback That Feeds Writing

    I earn my living by giving writers feedback. I intend to improve the writing, so authors who work with me sometimes get a new perspective on the meaning of good feedback. What’s the common expectation? Positive feedback is just flattery, and constructive feedback is just a euphemism for cruelty.

    But good feedback is neither flattering nor cruel. Helpful feedback addresses two main ingredients in the writing recipe: quantity & quality. You need both if you’re going to produce any writing project. I value these writing project ingredients equally.

    Feedback that builds a writer’s quantity of words is feedback that says, “I like what you’re doing–do more,” and gives the writer a sense that what you are writing is good, worthwhile. This is encouragement–not flattery–and without it, writers have nothing but empty notebooks and a blinking cursor.

    But without challenge, we may never reach our greatest potential. A critical eye sees what’s wrong with the writing and points it out: “The message would be clearer with a stronger verb here.” The opposite of cruelty, good feedback suggests changes that will uplift the quality of the writing.

    And here’s a cool tip: the more specific the feedback, the greater its success. I won’t just tell you, “I love it” when I’m offering quantity-oriented feedback; I’ll tell you, “I love this line right here because of the emotion you convey.” And my quality-oriented feedback will get even more specific: “The punctuation in this sentence misleads the reader. You need a comma right here.” See the intention? It’s not flattery or cruelty at all. It’s just good writing.

      Lips, 2009, San Francisco







      This Writer’s Tip has been cross posted at Ebb & Flow, the blog of my dear friend and colleague, Renata J, Razza. Renata coaches clients to harness their authenticity and intention to find an easier, more joyful way to get where they want to be. Find out more at

      1. July 12th, 2012

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