4 Reasons Why Written Comments Beat Oral Ones

This post was written by John White on Wed, 12 May 2010 15:56:48 +0000
Posted Under: managing writing project,process of writing,rapport with writer

Marketing communication writing projects live and die on review loops. Marketers like talking about what needs to be changed, but writers would rather see it in print.

Bigglehole, our staff writer, would like to weigh in on this topic, and respectfully directs these four reasons to clients, in the spirit of delivering to them the high-quality content they want.

This is easy, so I’ll get right to the point:

  1. No ambiguity. That’s pretty obvious. If you strike the word “approach” and replace it with “solution,” then I know your preference and I can propagate it through all of the work I do for you. If you write, “Title needs to convey automakers’ sense of urgency,” then I know what you want me to change and how you want me to change it. When you put your comments and changes in writing, it shows me how you would like the piece to look if you were writing it, and that goes a longer way toward helping me get you what you want than if you just talk about it.
  2. You have to do some of the work. It may seem a bit perverse, given that you’re paying me to write, but I like it when you put some work into this, too. The fact of the matter is that most writers don’t write; we suggest. The combination of our suggestions and your reactions results in a better finished product.
  3. Makes things go faster. I’m for anything that accelerates the process of getting from project-start to project-end successfully. To the extent that written feedback gets your point across to me more efficiently, it helps ensure that you too want to keep things moving. As Alvy Singer (in “Annie Hall”) might have put it, the writer-client “relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.” We don’t want that fate to befall your project.
  4. It shows that you care. When you take the time to go through a draft with a red pen or revision marks, it shows me that I’m not working in complete isolation. When I see you working on the piece, it makes me want to put more work into it to match yours. Conversely, when you complain vaguely over the phone, it suggests to me that what I’m working on is not very high on your list of priorities.

Having said all that, Bigglehole concedes that some clients are more comfortable and adept at providing oral feedback than written comments. “As long as they let me record the conversation and charge extra for it, I can work that way. But it still doesn’t get as close to the client’s target as written comments do.”

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

artwork credit: Charles Napier Hemy

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