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Offering constructive feedback to fellow writers by Carol Gioia

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Offering constructive feedback is an effective way to reach out to fellow writers in a spirit of helpfulness.

When you are impressed with an article it is easy to offer encouraging praise and feel confident that your comments are apt to be well-received.  Sometimes, however, you might feel compelled to point out a flaw or shortcoming.  Please do so in a constructive manner by avoiding the following:

Total negativity

Refrain from issuing a message with only negative comments.  Begin your message by offering praise or something positive about the article.  Potential criticism is easier to take when preceded by positive comments.  Also, try not to highlight problems without offering potential solutions.

Personal agenda

Monitor your own motivation for contacting the writer about an article.  Ensure you do not have bias about the subject, bias toward the writer or any other self-serving agenda, such as having an article of your own under the same topic or being a competitor.

Disrespectful tone

Reread your message before hitting the send button to ensure your tone is upbeat and positive.  Avoid any hint of ridicule, sarcasm or other derogatory demeanor.  Offer your comments in a kind, open and honest manner and you can be assured of an appreciative note of thanks in most cases.

In the event a writer is disgruntled over your attempt to be sincerely helpful, try not to take it personally.  That writer might be having a bad day, causing him to be overly sensitive.  Do not allow one bad experience to discourage you from offering feedback to your fellow writers, for the majority of writers are apt to be most appreciative of your helpful attention and might even return the courtesy by reading your profile and articles.

Do not stray off topic

Do not use a critique as an opportunity to advance your own agenda.  Your political views, personal opinions about the subject and any other commentary veering away from feedback about the quality of article you are supposedly critiquing is not helpful and may justifiably be viewed as self-serving.

Do not get personal

Your role is to act as a second pair of eyes to help the writer edit and make improvements to his/her writing, so confine your comments to that mission and refrain from making personal observations that might be taken offensively by the writer.

Anytime you take the time to offer feedback to a fellow writer you are displaying true community spirit.

An honest evaluation motivated by a sincere desire to be helpful is a gift to the writer. However, ensure to present your gift wrapped in mindful tact and tied together with thoughtful diplomacy.