08. May 2024 - Felicity Brand

Embracing the Feedback Loop: How Writers and Editors Elevate Each Other

B2B copywriters benefit when they understand that editors share their goal of producing a great written piece. Here are some tips on receiving and actioning feedback to make the editing process fruitful.

 


Knowing how to receive feedback well makes you a better writer and helps build (and nourish) the writer/editor relationship. In the realm of B2B copywriting, the writer-editor relationship is crucial for producing high-quality content. Receiving feedback is not about taking hits, or getting defensive. Editing is a conversation between two equal parties. A partnership that means not only giving feedback with respect, but also receiving feedback in the spirit it is meant.

Good editors don’t want to bring you down, they want to lift you up.

At Open Strategy Partners, we do a lot of writing and we cherish the writer/editor relationship. Editing is a fundamental part of our day-to-day work. Whether we’re creating B2B copywriting content for our clients, or writing internal documentation, every piece gets reviewed by a second set of eyes. 

We love talking about our process and teaching others how to do it too! (We’re writing a book about it - watch this space.) In the meantime, check out the OSP Writing and Editing Guide.

tl;dr

Writers and editors are equals working towards a common goal. A good editing process involves an open conversation where feedback is given and received mindfully.

Writers and editors share the same goal

Writers and editors are peers - it is not a hierarchical relationship. Forget the notion of a stern authoritarian wielding a red pen, looking for mistakes in your work. Instead, think of a friendly co-writer who is going to give you a boost to climb over a wall.

A B2B copywriting piece has the opportunity to be improved when it has been reviewed by someone other than the author. Incorporating editorial feedback results in better work all around. In addition, embracing the feedback loop is how you can learn and grow as a writer. 

At OSP, our editing process calls for an initial ‘Positivity Pass’ which helps to soften the first impression of seeing a lot of markup on your work. Read more about The positivity pass and why we do it. We also use our editorial codes to ensure rigor and adherence to our style guide and writing principles

Editing is a conversation

In both roles, writers and editors should ask for clarification rather than assume the other party “just doesn't get it”. Once you assume the best intentions from your editor, it is liberating! It opens the door for a conversation to happen.

It’s important to build time into the process for this conversation to happen. No one wants to feel rushed when editing, or compelled to incorporate (or ignore!) edits due to time pressure. Build a task into your process to hold space for that conversation to happen. Whether you use a Kanban board or software for task management, be sure to include an explicit step in your process for actioning edits. 

Once you relax into the writer/editor relationship, you can rely on it and leverage it. When you’re writing, mark-up your work as you go with questions or even highlight particularly challenging sections that you couldn’t quite nut out - there’s no shame in asking your friendly editor for help.

When you receive your reviewed work back from your editor, it can be overwhelming to see a sea of corrections, comments and suggestions. Remember both of you are on the same side! Consider your editors’ perspective and expertise, and know that there are several different ways you can action their feedback. 

As an editor, in many professional situations, you are in a position to impose your opinion on the process and the final (published) outcome. This doesn’t mean you are all-knowing, or can’t still learn new things. And we encounter many situations where you could help the final result, but where you are not in a fixed hierarchy: clubs, volunteering, or working in an open source project all come to mind.

This editing process works best as a conversation between equals. OSP Partner, Jeffrey A. McGuire explains,

“As a writer, I need to let go of every-single-word-is-my-baby. I know that well-edited writing is always better than anything I could do on my own. I have very opinionated taste and a good sense for words and what I want out of many pieces. The more I (judiciously) let the taste, knowledge, and experience of others guide me, the better the cooperation, and the better the results.”

Feedback is the answer

Newsflash: You don’t need to accept every change from your editor. In fact, they don’t expect you to!

As part of the two-way conversation, you have power as a writer. You don’t need to blindly implement feedback, nor should you reject every suggestion. You can take a variety of actions, remembering that your editor is trying to help you elevate the finished piece. 

Let’s look at the feedback staircase. If you’re a writer stuck on the bottom stair, in the defensive position, you are “hard to edit”. You may end up with a lot of “yes” editors who take the easy path for a quiet life and nobody wins. Neither party is learning or improving, and the finished work is not elevated to its best self. The goal is to aim for the top stair: mindfully receiving feedback, processing it, then taking a conscious action.

Acting on feedback is where it all happens. You can learn, your editor can learn, and the final text improves — becoming tighter, more focused, colorful, fun, and so on. When an editor makes a suggestion, and you process and act on it, three things can happen, all of them constructive. All of them result in consciously improved work this time and on into the future. As a writer:

  • You recognize the value in the proposed change, and gratefully implement it. 
  • You disagree with the proposed change, think through why you disagree, and add a note explaining why you are rejecting it. The process of reasoning through and justifying your choice has made you more certain of it. The aware, justified response shows that it is a conscious choice. There is a chance for the editor to learn.
  • Comparing the original and the suggested change, you see a third way and write something new (and wonderful!). This tends to happen a lot at OSP. The positive competition of ideas seems to spark further inspiration. As Jam says, “I find this quite exciting, and it often leaves me feeling closer to my peer on the other side of the process.”

How to mindfully action feedback

Accept the changes

This action is straightforward. You can review corrections and suggestions, and accept them then move on. Hopefully you will agree they make improvements to your work. A good editor will explain their reasoning. At OSP, our editing codes are a shared language that let us abstract the reasoning and supply feedback — turbo boosting our editorial process.

Reject (with reasoning)

As the writer, you are allowed to reject suggestions from your editor. You don’t always need to explain why, although this is polite and helps nourish the writer/editor relationship!

You should be able to justify why you reject comments - whether to your editor or just to yourself. It’s an important part of the process because it compels you to reflect and articulate your reasoning for your choices. Whether they be choices around grammar, phrasing or structure.

I’m keeping this phrase because although it sounds out of context here, the piece is part of a broader strategy so it will make sense when we publish.

If they are intuitive choices (because it “feels right”), then do your research to find out why, and articulate it.

Ask for clarification

You’re allowed to ask questions and get your editor to explain themselves! Remember to assume best intentions. Rather than dismiss or reject their corrections, ask your editor to clarify their comments. 

If you’ve built time into your process for the writer/editor conversation to happen, then you have the luxury of really mulling over your written content to mature it like a fine wine.

Suggest an alternative

This option is about finding a new path forward.

Sometimes an editor’s suggested corrections make the written piece awkward. Or perhaps you can’t agree on wording. If a section is very challenging, or seems like it has no solution, sometimes the best option is to write it differently. 

Suggesting an alternative is something that both the writer and editor can do to help make the written piece meet its goal. This might be re-writing a sentence, a whole paragraph or even restructuring and reordering the content to present ideas differently.

The Writer-Editor Pas de Deux 

Flexibility, empathy, and a desire to learn and improve *together* make for the best results *and* working relationships for both partners in the B2B copywriting dance — writer and editor.

If you always accept every suggestion, your editor might assume you don’t view the relationship as equals. If you never accept any suggestions, your editor will probably stop reviewing your work, because it ceases to be a conversation. And that means your work will never improve.

A good edit will inspire you to reflect on your writing choices. This will help you think about your  intention, and it compels you to articulate your decisions. Which makes for a meaningful conversation.

Listen to us chat about writing and editing on our podcast, Communicate, Connect, Grow.

Image credits

Ice skaters image by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash. Feedback staircase from Zone Digital.

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