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Feel-good feedback no substitute for good editing advice

by Shari Graydon

The dilemma is often an unconscious one: you’ve laboured over the text of your commentary (or letter, or website) and now you’re looking for feedback: do you send it to your mom? Your best friend? Your assistant? The people who either love you unconditionally, agree with you always, or think you’re brilliance personified?

Absolutely, if what you’re looking for is affirmation.

But if you want the kind of feedback that will make what you’ve written better — by identifying the holes in your argument, challenging your fuzzy thinking or encouraging you to clarify a muddy explanation – you’re far better off sending your draft to someone else. Someone who disagrees with you, or has lots of experience publishing in the form and field you’re writing and is willing to share it. Because if you can’t engage, compel or persuade them, you’re not likely to make it past the gatekeeper editors who are inundated with unsolicited submissions and  looking for a quick reason to delete your pitch and move on to the next one.

You don’t have to accept every piece of advice you get, but soliciting constructive criticism can’t help but improve your work. Professional writers never question the value of a good editor; they see the process as short-term pain in pursuit of long-term gain.

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