As a writer and editor beginning her professional career, I am always grateful for constructive feedback on my work. Thoughtful feedback creates a better final product, and also encourages me to continually improve my own skills and learn new things along the way. When project managers, editors, and colleagues deliver feedback keeping these two end-goals in mind, everyone benefits. Because yesterday was National Encourage a Young Writer Day, I’d like to share some ways that my colleagues at Nexight have used feedback to help not only me, but all of our employees, improve their writing skills.
- Praise the strong points in a writer’s work. This is the biggest factor in providing feedback to anyone, and not just writers. Writers who know their strengths will use them to their full capability, and focus on improving their weaknesses without becoming discouraged. I learned this while I was tutoring my peers in my university’s Writing Center, who were often nervous about needing editing to their paper. By acknowledging their strengths, they became more open to receiving the editing I provided.
- Be clear about what can be improved about certain portions of the writing. Rather than providing vague comments like “This section is unclear,” or “This needs a better introduction,” we explain what about the writing is unclear or confusing and provide some suggested fixes. Providing specific feedback reduces the back-and-forth editing process, allowing a more polished product to reach our client faster.
- Explain the rationale for significant edits. At Nexight, we use the Tracked Changes feature of Microsoft Word. Any time we make significant changes to someone’s document, we ensure that we explain why. This relates to the above method of clarity in edits, but provides examples of proper tone and wording for documents going to different types of audiences. For instance, a case study regarding automotive materials, which I had written for a roadmap, needed edits to explain certain terms and concepts to its audience. My supervisor made it clear why the case study required the revisions she provided, and this guidance informed my writing for the other case studies I provided in the roadmap.
- Acknowledge gaps in a writer’s understanding. While this is not necessary for every document that gets reviewed, my colleagues and I always make sure to recognize and note when someone’s errors arise from a lack of prior knowledge. Not only is it a learning opportunity for the writer, it shows respect for their contributions and their learning new writing skills. I honed this skill during my time in the Writing Center; often, I was editing papers by students who had never heard of the basic parts of academic essay structure, such as thesis statements. Recognizing what they did not know led to a faster and more respectful feedback process.
- Empower writers to think critically about the edits by encouraging pushback. Allowing writers to push back on the edits they receive assures that no one person’s writing preferences becomes the main style for our documents. Everyone at Nexight has both great ideas and subject knowledge, and our focus is on making the best document we can for our clients. The discussions that results from pushback leads to better writing, and better final products, through further collaboration.
Although yesterday was a day to celebrate young writers, we use these tips as a strategy for any feedback we provide to each other: feedback is a gift, and should be a gift people want to receive. I’m grateful that I learned how to provide useful feedback to my peers at school, and impressed that I found this same collaborative culture at Nexight. Our company is dedicated to producing high-quality work, and we always strive for the best possible end product—one that utilizes a thoughtful and constructive review process. Collaboration allows us as a company—and as individuals—to learn something new every day. If this approach sounds like an ideal fit, be sure to check out our careers page for new and upcoming job postings!