How to give great copy feedback

Written by Chris Tapley

We’ve handled our fair share of copywriting projects, but even we’ll confess that we don’t always get it right first time, especially for larger jobs and tricky messaging needs. 

How do we make sure we carry out a great job on every project? We need clear feedback on our first drafts. This is where the importance of great client feedback comes in.

Here are our top tips for giving us copywriters excellent feedback on draft copy, to make sure the second draft nails it.

1. Use Word’s ‘Review’ features

Good feedback is presented clearly. But nothing is less clear than some words in red, some in green, and some highlighted yellow. Have you added them? Would you like them taken out? We simply don’t know. 

Luckily, Word provides some pretty nifty features for tracking changes. You can activate tracking under the ‘Review’ tab so we can follow everything you update. If you’d like to include some thoughts, just right-click to add comments – that way they nestle neatly in the sidebar, ready to be resolved.

2. Collate your colleague’s comments

Sometimes we get comments from several people in the same organisation about one piece of copy. And believe it or not, they don’t always agree with each other. This can make it hard for us to decide which conflicting comments to act on. It’s much better if you rationalise everyone’s comments and distil them into clear advice first.

3. Be specific

Vague comments like, ‘not sure about this’ don’t give copywriters any meaningful clues – except that you’re not sure about something. We can then only venture a guess at what your trouble might be. Or we can hassle you for more feedback, which prolongs things further. Always try to explain why something isn’t working so we can act on it.

4. Let us know how long the review will take

Normally, we’ll deliver a first draft with a breezy comment like ‘let us know if you need any changes.’ The best thing you can do? Confirm you’ve received that first draft and give us a rough idea of when we’re likely to hear back. 

If we know we’re getting your comments back next Tuesday afternoon, we can schedule in some time to turn them around fast.

5. Point out what you do like

If you’ve seen a competitor’s website explain something better, send us the link for inspiration. Don’t worry, we won’t copy and paste, just learn from it. Knowing what you like really helps us fine-tune that second draft. 

Equally, do you really like how we’ve described something in the first draft? Let us know. Feedback doesn’t all need to be critical. If we know you like a certain style, we’ll be sure to write similarly in subsequent pieces of work. Plus, we love a good pat on the back.

6. Don’t try to rewrite

You’re paying us to do that! Just explain where we’ve gone wrong and we’ll sort it. Not only does taking on this extra work waste your time, it damages our fragile writerly egos.

7. Explain your thought process to help our understanding

‘Say it like this’ is great. Even better is ‘say it like this because…’

When you explain why you want us to phrase something in a particular way, it will deepen our understanding of your business. That helps us get it right next time.

8. Take your time

Read the draft once to make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not. On your second read-through you can add comments and track changes. 

We can usually tell when a client has made comments in a rush. How? It’s a copywriter’s instinct, passed down through generations. And the comments tend to make more sense.

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