Letter #8: Giving constructive feedback
Expert interview on how to give useful editing feedback.
How’s it going?
I’ve been thinking about giving feedback this week. Particularly, about how editors and content managers need to frame it as useful rather than subjective.
For me, honestly, it’s not often that I outsource work. But when I do, I find myself scratching my head — trying to figure out the best way to share my feedback on the work done.
Content managers deal with sharing feedback A LOT though. So I thought I’d talk to Kieran Tie, the Founder of Chatty, an editing service that pairs you with editors, for his tips on sharing feedback in a useful way.
As usual, I asked Kieran:
A mistake he’s made that you can learn from.
An actionable tip to get you one step closer to sharing useful feedback.
And, a secret tip to giving feedback so you can publish better content.
Let’s dive in:
👉 Learn from Kieran’s mistake: “Great editing isn’t always about giving more feedback — it’s about giving feedback the right way.”
“I was editing an ebook where the writer was having a hard time matching their examples and arguments to the target audience,” Kieran writes; explaining how they came about learning this lesson.
“I left comments with ideas for expanding a few sections with additional content — and next thing you know, I’m burning an extra hour explaining why my suggestions contradicted the previous editors’ feedback.
Worse, this was the writers’ first piece for a new client — a piece they’d already spent many hours writing — with a fast-approaching delivery deadline to boot. [But I was] breezing in asking for even more work.”
👉 Do this today: “Be specific with your suggestions.”
Instead of saying “this needs work” or commenting “expand” or “why,” Kieran says “offer suggestions to help them solve the problem.”
Here are some examples:
“I feel like you’re trying to say X, but these past few paragraphs have been about Y. How can we bring these two ideas together?”
“You’re sharing X concept here without explaining what it means. How about we add 1-2 sentences with background information to bring readers up to speed?”
“I’d love to see some examples of how companies put Y into practice to illustrate your point. Do you think you could find a couple to add in?”
Kieran shares specificity works because it makes feedback more useful and less personal all while helping writers improve both the piece and their writing.
👉 The secret tip you need to know to offer meaningful feedback: “Frame feedback as questions or suggestions” and be open, in fact welcome, questions on the suggestions you make.
Why? Kieran says:
“The very best editors actively encourage their writers to push back when they disagree with a change.”
If a writer accepts 80% of my suggestions and comments — and questions or flat-out rejects the other 20% — I’m a happy editor.”
The reason: Editors can make mistakes too, Kieran admits.
“Our job is to help writers craft the best version of their story, not to dictate what we think the best version should be.”
So today’s takeaways:
Be specific with your suggestions.
Give the right feedback — not more feedback.
Frame feedback as questions to encourage writers to share their opinions for an overall strong content piece.
🎁 Resource: How to provide feedback on content featuring advice from folks from Nextiva and Omniscient Digital [free].
That’s all, folks. Hit reply and share your number one tip for sharing constructive feedback.
Catch you next week,