By using the right politeness strategy, social media editors can successfully motivate writers to accept changes to their content.
Social media is a large, new, and sometimes scary field for editors. Many posts that are given to editors are written by contributors who aren’t fully aware of the editing and publishing process. These contributors may not understand how to properly communicate with their editors or how to meet their editors’ expectations. These situations can cause challenges for technical editors who want to properly communicate with clients. Editors need to know how to give clear feedback that motivates clients to make the needed changes in the content.
In September 2011, linguistics professor Jo Mackiewicz published a research study titled “Epinions Advisors as Technical Editors: Using Politeness Across Levels of Edit,” highlighting the review website Epinions. Epinions was a consumer review website that had Advisors, or unofficial editors, whose jobs were to give feedback and edit reviews for clarity. Mackiewicz studied how the site’s Advisors edited these social media posts and were then able to motivate reviewers to accept and implement their feedback. Because the reviewers were not required to respond to the Advisors’ edits, Mackiewicz focused her research on the effectiveness of different methods that Advisors used in giving constructive feedback.
Mackiewicz gathered 60 different reviews that had garnered Advisor comments into a corpus. She used reviews that were about digital cameras and stand mixers, which were products that had a large amount of reviews to use and had recent comments from Advisors (428–429). Out of all the price ranges and reviews from an eight-year period, there were 76 Advisor comments total. Out of these comments, 46% were about edits that could be made to the reviews.
Mackiewicz found that 69% of the comments focused on substantive edits (443), specifically on how the reviewers could be even more helpful to their readers. The Advisors also took on the role of a technical editor with their feedback. Furthermore, Advisors often used hedge words (such as might, possibly, usually, etc.) to mitigate their feedback, and even the harshest of Advisors would end the critique with a compliment. Mackiewicz states, “Such strategies help motivate reviewers to take on the challenge of editing.”
This balance of politeness and critique motivated the reviewers to edit their posts, providing more helpful reviews.
More often than not, content creators for social media have an informal relationship with their editors and are not as likely to thoroughly examine or accept all edits. Using politeness strategies such as hedge words and compliments motivates clients to implement suggested edits. These strategies can help social media editors refine their craft and communicate better with their clients, leading to greater quality of work and improved editorial reputation.
To discover more about politeness strategies for social media editing, read the full article:
Mackiewicz, Jo. 2011. “Epinions Advisors as Technical Editors: Using Politeness Across Levels of Edit.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 25 (4): 421-448. https://doi.org/10.1109/47.387775
—Alohilani Jacob, Editing Research
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Find more research
Take a look at Sam Niven’s Editing Research article for more tips on how to balance politeness with critique in his article: “How Can an Editor Balance Directness and Politeness?”.
Learn more by reading Nicholas Spadaccini and Jenaro Talen’s (1992) book The Politics of Editing about the author-editor relationship: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Check out Jo Mackiewicz and Kathryn Riley’s (2002) conference article to learn about editing nonnative English speakers’ works with politeness: “Balancing Clarity and Politeness in Editing Sessions with Non-native Speakers”. In 2002 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), pp. 410-422. https://doi.org/10.1109/IPCC.2002.1049125.