© Ugur Akinci
There will be instances in your career as a professional writer when you will be asked to “peer review” (which is, yes, a compound “verb” these days) someone else’s or your own work.
This may happen in group meeting (or teleconference/webinar) situations when you may be invited to offer you views on how to improve a certain copy or a document.
In situations like this, it is important to know how to be positive or productive since such meetings can get “personal” and destructive in a hurry.
Here are 2 Golden Principles to follow to learn and contribute positively to such review processes. Not only your next pay check but your whole career as a writer may actually depend on it.
GOLDEN PRINCIPLE 1: Eliminate “you” from your feedback.
Always talk about yourself and your impressions, feelings, etc. This may not be always possible; but try it anyways.
When you talk about yourself, you’re not criticizing anyone directly. That way it’s harder to disregard what you’re saying.
For example, avoid saying this: “You are not correct in writing ABC.”
Try this: “I felt like ABC may not be correct.”
GOLDEN PRINCIPLE 2: Eliminate generalities and replace them with specifics.
General observations invite endless bickering. Specifics cut down to the chase and give the others a real chance to respond.
Here is a meeting destroyer: “You always do this! It’s as though you are born to be deceptive.” That would be the equivalent of an A-Bomb.
You can try this instead: “I thought the fifth item you brought up on page 23, the one that refers to the UL certification process, should be updated in the light of the new Guidelines published this February by GAO. Have you considered that?”
Now, who can object to that? The chances are the other writer might actually be GRATEFUL for you bringing up such a clear point in such a friendly way and providing an opportunity to improve the product at the same time.
BONUS: The SBI Framework
If you’d like to get more technical about it, you can use the so-called “SBI Framework” to provide a peer review.
You start with determining the specific SITUATION you are referring to.
Then you focus on the specific BEHAVIOR in question, and never the “character trait” or “general habit” of the other person.
Then you summarize the specific IMPACT such behavior had on you.
Usually such carefully calibrated responses improve the document in question and create lasting bonds of goodwill.
For example: “I have to say that the inclusion of Illustration 9 in Chapter 5 (BEHAVIOR) of the Field Audit Guide (SITUATION) has greatly improved my understanding of the whole Field Audit process (IMPACT).”
It’s your life; your career. Handle it gently, intelligently, with compassion.