Over the course of your career, you may have come across a mean, judgmental editor or proposal reviewer that disparages and chides authors for their mistakes. In their comments, that editor or reviewer is passive-aggressive and overly critical to the point that it’s an insult. In the end, it seems like he or she tears apart your work for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Perhaps he or she derives secret satisfaction from feeling superior when pointing out your mistakes. Whether that’s true or not, authors often respond more constructively to constructive feedback.

For example, do you see anything wrong with this comment?

5 Simple Rules for Constructive Feedback

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Although the reviewer is not necessarily wrong, he is unnecessarily harsh. He is lecturing, and while his comments are correct, the writer may get offended, become defensive, and ignore the truth in the suggestions. A writer’s emotions may overshadow his or her ability to pick up on the positive aspects of reviewer feedback, especially if all the comments are like this one.

A better way for this reviewer to present his comments would be to remove the word “self-centered” and restate the comment in a positive light. For example, “Suggest either re-wording this paragraph to be more customer-centered (showing what’s in it for the customer and not for us as in “expanding our knowledge”) or deleting it.” The lecturing has been removed and the feedback is respectful of the writer’s intelligence.

When you are in a position of an editor or a reviewer, remember that the authors put a lot of work into the proposal, so be respectful and productive in your criticism. You want to treat your team members like fellow adults and shape your feedback accordingly. Here are some tips you may want to keep in mind when editing or providing Pink or Red Team comments:

  1. Don’t just state that something is wrong or needs to be rewritten, be specific and constructive about what needs to be improved. Offer an example of how to re-word the sentence.
  2. Make sure your comments are polite, with no sneering language or poking fun of mistakes. Soften your comments with words such as “suggest” or “perhaps”.
  3. Don’t assume that something is wrong just because it doesn’t make sense to you—ask for clarification, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Ask a question or request they verify your change rather than assuming the thought is wrong.
  4. Air your concerns calmly and rationally, without singling out individuals. Keep your feedback impersonal and don’t use “you” as a form of address when pointing out a mistake.
  5. Realize that everyone has their own style and voice, and their writing may not necessarily be wrong even if you would have said something differently. Establishing a style guide for your proposal team will help ensure consistency.

What pet peeves do you have with comments and edits from reviewers?

Best regards,

Olessia Smotrova-Taylor

OST Global Solutions, Inc.
…Because there is no second place in proposals! TM

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