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How to give effective copy feedback

When I worked as a secondary school teacher (that’s high school to those of you who are like “she worked as a what-now?” 🫤).

Okay let me start again.

When I worked as a secondary school teacher, we were taught to give feedback as a shit sandwich. 

I kid you not.

So the idea is that you sandwich any feedback that may be perceived as negative with two layers of praise. Which looks a little like this:

Hey, you showed great imagination when you answered this 10 mark question about electricity with a short story about frog toast —- but you didn’t get any marks *the teachery bit* —- it’s great that you asked such GREAT questions while we talked through this.

The good news is that I do not want (or need) feedback like this.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of giving great feedback remember these two little (but important) things as you click open your Google Doc:

The first draft, is the first DRAFT. 

– The first draft, is the first DRAFT. 

It’ll be 95% ish. The job of your feedback ‌is to make your copy even more fantastic… so give feedback without feeling guilty. Just know your place in this… you stay-in-the-comments. 

– Read the whole thing at least once before you start feeding back.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Sixth Sense, you’ll know why.

The good news is that I do not want (or need) feedback like this.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of giving great feedback remember these two little (but important) things as you click open your Google Doc:

– The first draft, is the first DRAFT. 

It’ll be 95% ish. The job of your feedback ‌is to make your copy even more fantastic… so give feedback without feeling guilty. Just know your place in this… you stay-in-the-comments. 

– Read the whole thing at least once before you start feeding back.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Sixth Sense, you’ll know why.

How to give effective feedback to your copywriter (C’est moi.)

  1. Remember that this copy is not for you.

Probably the most important point here. If you’re writing to sell something to a 45 year old health coach who is a mum retraining now her kids are teenagers then you need to get yourself into the headspace of a mom who is 45 and has teenagers.

And then you read your copy. As her.

Just because YOU don’t like Henry Cavill, doesn’t mean your reader isn’t collecting Henry Cavill GIF’s (from The Witcher). I mean, who isn’t collecting these?

  1. Be REALLY specific if you can. 

‘I don’t like this’ is completely understandable, as a feeling. As feedback it is non-actionable without more information.

If there’s a particular word, sentence or paragraph you’re unsure about, highlight the sentence or section and use the comments to say something specific like:

‘Adding French words into the copy makes you sound like my Uncle John and our ideal client wouldn’t like my Uncle John….’ 

More examples:

*highlighted phrase*  : Can we avoid referring to Mars as the planet of War?

*highlighted phrase* : This only applies to the VIP package, can we make this clearer?

*highlighted section* : Our audience is split 50:50 between the U.S and Australia. When we talk about summer it will be cold for half our audience so watch out for temperature and bikini references. 

Comments to avoid: ‘think outside the box’ ← just…no. 

Sometimes you dont know why you don’t like something and this is okay. This is actually good. It means something is off – and figuring it out will enable all future messaging to be clearer (you should add what you learn to a Tone of Voice guide for future writers). 

If its just one paragraph: highlight it and mention in the comments. I may be able to see why. 

If it’s the whole thing: let’s chat either asynchronously via Voxer or on a quick call. Often it’s a word choice that seems innocuous at first glance, like the word CONVERT. Convert is a common word in our launch-y world, but has religious vibes that may subconsciously be giving you the heeby jeebies.

  1. Point out ‌spelling mistakes or ask for a word change

There shouldn’t be any spelling mistakes, I use an AI editing tool and then a professional human editor (she’s called Lucy and she’s lovely) but if there is – don’t waste time typing out five words ‘There is a typo here’ – just change it. It’s quicker for you, and keeps me creatively solving problems.

For a word change – 

If it doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence: Change it. 

If it changes the meaning of the sentence: Add the suggestion in the comments. A quick way to do this is : C’est moi?? That’s me??

  1. Great copy has persuasive techniques subtly woven in.

It may be tempting to add a paragraph or rewrite a section. Don’t.

I can, with 100% certainty (assuming you’re not also a professional copywriter) say that you will destroy the persuasion techniques used in the document. If you think you can do better – write in the comments or send me a voice note via Voxer. And I’ll translate it into language that works, if I agree.

Here are some things you can do instead of going all Edward Scissor hands in our Google Doc:

*highlighted section* : I think the story about my childhood sweetheart would work really well here instead. Let me tell you about Susan… 

*highlighted section* : Do we need this? I’m worried the copy is too long?

*highlighted button copy* : Can we add the price here? 

*Highlighted sentence*  : Why isn’t the price in a bigger font? 

  1. You’re welcome to share your ideas, just remember that I’m here to help you write what your audience wants to read.

You may think your audience wants to know the story behind your logo, in almost every use case they don’t. 

I have 67,926 more snippets of messaging knowledge I can use to help you that I’ve collected over the years (and via $$$$$£££££ worth of training and copy coaching), so trust me when I tell you what should and should not go into your copy project.

6. It’s not a shit sandwich, but you still need to be kind.

If you keep your feedback to the copy, you’ll be golden and we’ll have a really efficient, honest productive relationship resulting in better performing copy which is better for your business (more clients and more moolah.) 

If your feedback becomes personal. That is bad. This is the bad zone. Reword it to be about the copy. For example: What even is this? (aka ‘what have you done here?) Ouch. → should be → I don’t like the structure you have used for this email. I can change that easily.