Receiving constructive criticism from others before you revise your work can help you find a better way to approach a subject. 

As editors, we can provide an enormous amount of feedback to authors. We try to make that feedback as clear and as understandable as possible, hoping that our ideas and suggestions will be understood when the author considers accepting them or otherwise responding to them. Given the enormous amount of feedback you provide to authors, have you ever stopped to consider the types of feedback you provide? And then given those feedback types, have you stopped to consider how authors respond?


In the article “Revision of Public Information Brochures on the Basis of Reader Feedback,” Menno de Jong and Peter Jan Schellens (1997), both professors at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, share their research on how professional writers incorporate feedback into final products.

The researchers asked five professional writers to revise brochures based on reader feedback given through the plus-minus method. The plus-minus method is a feedback process in which editors or readers indicate well-written passages, readable graphs, or other positive sections with a plus sign (+), and other sections that had mistakes or were easily misunderstood with a minus sign (−). In addition to providing plus and minus signs, those giving feedback also provide the reasons for the marks.

Five professional writers were then provided with feedback generated through the plus-minus efforts of 30 readers. For control purposes, the writers were provided with three types of feedback: factual acceptance (feedback disagreeing with facts in the text), normative acceptance (feedback disagreeing with values or rules discussed in the text), and appreciation (feedback not based on misunderstanding or on disagreement but rather on personal preference). The researchers then analyzed how the writers responded to each type of feedback.

The study’s exploratory results indicated that writers added content in response to factual-acceptance feedback, substituted content in response to normative-acceptance feedback, and deleted or substituted content in response to appreciation feedback.


The study’s results suggest that different types of feedback exist and that authors will respond differently to different types of feedback. As editors, we may benefit from critically analyzing the types of feedback we provide, as well as the ways authors respond to that feedback. By doing so, we may find more effective communication strategies that can help authors know how to improve their writing.

To discover more about feedback types and how writers apply those types, read the full article:

Schellens, Peter Jan, and Menno de Jong. 1997. “Revision of public information brochures on the basis of reader feedback.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 11 (4): 483–501.

—Hailey Garcia, Editing Research