Getting feedback: Number your lines

Getting feedback: Number your lines

In my last blog post, I discussed some emotional difficulties of accepting feedback on your writing. This post will share a practical suggestion to help you improve the review process, whether you are the reviewer or the author.

For our discussion, let’s assume that you are seeking feedback on a Microsoft® Word document and want to make the review process as productive as possible. I have a simple, fast tip for you: Number your lines!

Why number lines for the feedback process?

When I coach my technical writing webinar learners, I always number the lines in their Microsoft documents before we look at their documents onscreen, especially if the document is long. Numbering lines makes it so easy for a reviewer to say, “John, on line 156 you wrote “troubleshooting” as 1 word, but on line 58, you wrote it as 2 separate words. Which is correct according to your style guide?”

Without the line numbers, I would have had to say, “On page 8, in paragraph 5, 3 lines from the bottom, you wrote….” That can be very time-consuming and annoying, especially if the document is long and the author(s) and reviewer(s) are meeting virtually as we do in my technical writing webinar. I believe that numbering lines in learners’ documents improves the efficiency of our virtual review sessions using GoToMeeting®.

I learned the simple trick of numbering document lines years ago as I prepared for an all-day review session on a 185-page document that I had written for 3M; we had 12 reviewers in that room. Numbered lines helped with the logistics of the process, if not the politics!

How to number your lines in Word

  1. Click on View and ensure that you are in Print Layout.
  2. Click on Page Layout and navigate to Line Numbers.
  3. Pull down the arrow and click on Continuous.
  4. When you are done with the review, reverse the process to remove the numbers.

To see my demonstration of the process, visit The Text Doctor’s YouTube channel.


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