First, it is important to know the difference (though arguably negligible) between feedback and criticism:
Next, there is no one right way to provide feedback/criticism to a writer, but the type of feedback one gives has to line up with a few variables:
First of all, there is the relationship the reader has with the writer. If the reader doesn’t know the writer well, it’s important to keep things as professional as possible. That’s actually a good rule of thumb no matter what, but it’s especially important for writers with whom one has little/no personal connection or no way to gauge the writer’s emotional state. In the classroom or in a writing group, it is easy to see how my comments and feedback are affecting a student or peer, and I can revise my statements or reword them accordingly. in contrast, providing feedback online presents a special problem, because we have no way of reading the writer’s body language or facial expressions to see how the feedback is affecting him/her. I think this is why a lot of people avoid offering feedback at all. Most of us have been raised to keep our mouths shut if we have nothing nice to say (though, the internet proves this is happening less and less every day). Usually, I’d say that is good advice to follow. I avoid commenting on blogs and posts if I find nothing positive to say, and when I have constructive feedback to provide, I keep it to myself unless I am asked for it. There is a time and place, after all. Not everyone is seeking to improve, and not everyone wants to hear opinions on their writing. On the other hand, putting our writing out there for the world to see does open us up to criticism, and we need to be ready to deal with that.
Sometimes, one refrains from giving feedback because the writer is more of an expert on the topic. But if the reader knows something the reader does not or catches inaccuracies, it can be helpful for the reader to relay this type of feedback.
Feedback provided from writer to writer is often of the “we’re in the same boat” variety (peer-feedback). But, if the reader has more experience writing than the writer does, offering specific advice for improvement (reasons, examples, suggestions) can be invaluable.
Finally, there are multiple ways to provide feedback. So without further ado…Let’s get to the crux of this post.
6 Ways to Provide Useful Writing Feedback
#1: I like this/I don’t like this
#2: Blanket feedback
#3: Don’t make it personal
#4: Balance negative and positive
#5: Keep it simple, focused, and specific
#6: Ask questions
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