How to give copywriters better feedback

The more constructive you can make your feedback, the sharper your content will be. Here are five fast ways to get better results.

Constructive Copywriting Feedback

Amends are a natural part of the copywriting process. Sometimes it’s because a writer missed something in a brief or didn’t fully grasp the topic. In other cases, new information comes to light halfway through a project, plans shift and change, or a new stakeholder wakes up and wants their say.

Regardless, if you run projects that involve copywriters, you’ll likely have to give them feedback so they can amend their first draft. But not all feedback is created equal.

If you can deliver your comments in a precise, constructive, positive way, you’ll get far better results from your writers – both on that project and in the long term.

Follow these five feedback tips, and you’ll find your writers are better motivated, and better equipped to make the right changes to their drafts.

1. Be specific

Try and be as prescriptive with your feedback as possible. Telling a writer the piece is “generic” or “lacks impact” leaves them guessing what needs to be done.

But if you instead highlight specific phrases you feel need more authority, or give concrete examples of areas that need more detail, your writer will have a much better idea of what you’re looking for.

This isn’t to say you need to hold your writer’s hand. But if you don’t give them a good idea of where changes are needed, they’ll be left guessing – and likely missing the mark once again.

(This is also true of things you do like. If you can highlight specific sections for comment, rather than saying things like “this reads well”, then your writer will be able to carry that feedback into the next piece.)

2. Use positive framing

Just in case you roll your eyes looking at this subhead: yes, we’re all adults working in this industry. So no, you don’t need to sugar-coat our feedback unnecessarily.

But we’re human beings too – and nobody likes re-writing work they’ve already done. A little psychology can help you get a more engaged writer – and a better result.

If you come in with strong negative criticism right from the first round of amends, you’re likely going to put your writer on the back foot and make them feel defensive. And defensive people seldom do their best work.

But what if, instead of saying “you missed out points x, y and z”, you said “can we include points x, y and z?”

Your writer isn’t an idiot – they’ll be able to read between the lines and realise they forgot to put the points in. But they will absolutely appreciate you helping them save face.

A little positive framing can make the world of difference to your copywriter. It will keep them better motivated during the amends process, help them act on the spirit of your comments, and ultimately lead to better changes to your piece – and better content overall. And that’s the real goal, isn’t it?

3. Consolidate your criticism

Maybe you have a lot of stakeholders who need to offer their feedback on a document. Or maybe you come back to a piece a few days later and have additional thoughts. Either way, you should avoid the temptation to send feedback to a writer in bits and pieces.

The average copywriter needs several reference documents at a time (brief, product spec, company website etc), and if you add several different emails to the mix, you’re making their job far harder than it needs to be.

And if the various comments conflict (believe me, they often do), you’re far better placed than the writer to consider which should take precedence. If you don’t want to go to another round of amends, it’s best not to make them guess.

4. Consider what’s possible (and what isn’t)

We’d all love the perfect stat to come falling from the heavens to give every blog a punchy intro. But if no one’s published the study, that stat simply doesn’t exist. And if it doesn’t exist, no amount of desk research will help your copywriter find it (no matter how nicely you ask).

Similarly, your writer might be limited in other ways. If they can’t talk to any subject matter experts, end customers, or other specialists, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to add the extra depth or unique insights you’re asking for. Even an experienced B2B tech writer is only a writer.

So, before you request a change, consider what your writer will realistically be able to do with the time, information and resources available.

5. Build in time for changes

It’s well understood that rushing any creative process leads to poor results. For the first draft at least. Yet, when it comes to amends, there’s always an expectation that they should be done quickly to avoid derailing the project. But just as rushing the initial draft leads to suboptimal copy, editing a document too hastily can also lead to ineffective changes.

The key is to keep amends in mind when first planning out your content delivery schedule. A good rule of thumb is that any writing project will require two rounds of changes – one round for any big tweaks or new additions, and another to sand off the remaining rough edges. So plan for that, and anything else is a bonus.

(That’s also why we allow for two rounds of amends in all our quotes.)

Good content needs a good feedback process

Robert Graves once said, “there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”

Were he around today, he would no doubt approve of a great amends process. And once you see the impact changing your feedback can have on the quality of your content, you’ll probably be converted too.

So, take these lessons to heart, and show your copywriter a little kindness during the amends process. They’ll likely be very grateful for it – and deliver you even better copy as a result.

Further reading…

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