How to Give and Receive Feedback during Peer Editing
When working on writing assignments, you may participate in an activity that can help or harm you or your classmates’ assignments. Whether peer editing helps or harms depends largely on how your teacher or professor structures it, but you can have a hand in the outcome. Here are ways to give and receive feedback effectively during peer editing.
Above all, be respectful. Janet E. Gardner writes in “The Writing Process” that you should give constructive criticism, that is, suggestions for improvement rather than insults (27). I often use I-statements when giving feedback because saying you and your too often can sound aggressive. For example, try saying, “I find this paragraph confusing. Maybe describing this situation more would help,” not, “Your writing doesn’t make sense.” Gardner adds that even if you disagree with an expressed opinion, avoid being mean to its speaker (27). Remember, do unto your classmates as you would have them do unto you.
Also, balance your feedback because no draft is completely bad or completely good. Mention something specific that the writer does well. When doing this, try to avoid the construction, “I like (something positive), but (something negative),” which causes many people to forget the positive half.
Hearing feedback on your writing can be uncomfortable, but try to remain positive and open-minded. It’s better to learn about a problem with your draft from a peer, while there’s time to correct the problem, than from your instructor during grading.
Here are two pieces of advice from Gardner. First, don’t assume that answering questions classmates ask about your writing will make revising the points in question unnecessary (Gardner 27). If you’re having to explain multiple sentences verbally, that means your writing could be clearer. Second, if classmates offer little beyond, “It’s good,” Gardner says to show them what portions of the draft you think need improvement, and ask for advice (28). If your peers think you can handle criticism, they will be more comfortable giving it.
Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, be respectful and open-minded. Remember, even professional writers seek guidance on their work from others because seeing how a reader reacts to their words is valuable. Developing skill in giving and receiving feedback is useful in life, not just in the English classroom. Think of peer editing as a chance to develop those skills.
Work Cited: Gardner, Janet E. “The Writing Process.” Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. Print.
Photo: ninniane, Flickr
About Darla Word
I'm a writing tutor and editor from Michigan. My favorite subject to write about is writing because making better writers is my calling. I also enjoy reading, singing, swimming, and cardmaking.