Accepting feedback? Take what you like; leave the rest

Accepting feedback? Take what you like; leave the rest


When I teach about feedback in my technical writing webinars, I often quote these words of Frank Norris*: “I hate to write, but I like to have written.”* I would slightly reframe this comment: “I hate to receive feedback about my writing, but I like to have received that feedback.”

Why would I want to receive comments, even criticism, about my writing? It’s because I know that writing happens between my brain and my keyboard, without the benefit of real-world feedback from readers such as:

  • What confuses them?
  • What delights them?
  • What else do they need that I haven’t supplied?

Good reviewers offer “I like” and “I wish” feedback:

  • I like your graphic on page 2.
  • I like your sentence length throughout.
  • I like your explanation of __________________.
  • I wish that you had presented this data in a table.
  • I wish that you had provided a summary at the beginning.
  • I wish I could visualize this process better.

Because “I likes” and “I wishes” help me as an author, I teach this practice in my technical writing webinars. All writers crave positive comments but need constructive suggestions.

Most “I wish” comments are helpful, but every now and then, I find a suggestion that I can’t implement. For example, I recently asked three colleagues to review the manuscript for my next book, Webinar School™. One reviewer offered excellent suggestions (for example, combine Chapters 1 and 2). Done! However, she requested more examples of low-tech tips for interactivity. “Really?” I muttered. “Nine extended examples in 3.5 manuscript pages isn’t enough?”

Take what you like and leave the rest. This advice offers us a sense of autonomy over our writing. However, please consider: If your boss suggests changes in your text, comply if possible. Your job may depend on accepting that feedback.

*Frank Norris, American novelist, 1870-1902


One Response to Accepting feedback? Take what you like; leave the rest

  1. I love the idea of the “I like” and “I wish” statements – I’ve never thought about feedback in that way before and it really makes sense! Thank you for continuing to educate and enlighten me with your wisdom, Bette. You are helping me grow as a writer and communicator!

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