If you’ve ever been in a writing class of any kind, it’s likely that you’ve heard a version of the following phrase:
Good writers know the importance of feedback.
I know from experience that depending on the situation, the feedback we often get might not be exactly what we’re looking for. We’ve all been in those classes where professors schedule peer-review days and your partner leaves you little feedback but “This is good!” or “Fix this comma.” If you don’t consider yourself to be a “good writer” or if you get nervous when you’re asked to share your writing, asking others for feedback—really, desiring feedback at all—becomes even more difficult. Instances and circumstances like these can turn us off to turning to others for feedback, but the aforementioned quip, as you’ll often hear in the Writing Resources Center, is actually 100% true.
Speaking as a writer, a writing instructor, and a writing coach, I know it’s imperative that you get a second opinion on a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter what it is: a second set of eyes, a fresh perspective, someone to ask you questions when things don’t make sense…it’s often exactly what we need to take our writing to the next level.
Personally, I don’t ever submit a formal piece of writing, whether it’s to a blog or to a professor, without getting a second opinion. As an experienced writer, I understand that I often can’t see past my own opinions and mistakes, and that’s ok. The first draft (or drafts) are what Linda Flower calls “writer-based prose,” where I’m writing just for me and sorting out my ideas. In writer-based prose, it doesn’t matter if there are issues with clarity or cohesion because I’m the only person who is likely going to see it. My end goal for almost any piece of writing, though, is to turn it into reader-based prose: something easily readable and understandable for a reader, leaving nothing open to confusion. It takes revision to turn my messy, writer-based prose into the finished piece of reader-based prose, but I often spend so much time and brainpower on a single piece of writing that it becomes difficult for me to find typos myself or recognize when I’m not being as clear and direct as I should be. Even as a writing tutor I spend a lot of time in my writing process getting feedback. In fact, I have a writing partner who is interested in similar subjects to whom I send my writing, and he tells me where my writing may have everything from gaping holes in my argument to minor typos and awkward sentence structures. If I didn’t get his opinion, I might submit a piece of writing with a glaring mistake. This is where it becomes critical to obtain feedback from others.
This feedback doesn’t necessarily have to be from an academic or an experienced writer (this is particularly helpful, which is why we always recommend WRC services as your second opinion—but it’s not the only option). You can talk to your best friend, who is an engineer, and ask her if you’ve explained yourself clearly. Talk about your paper with your grammar nerd parent, who might be able to help with the proofreading and editing. So long as you’re getting that second opinion, giving yourself an opportunity to remedy glaring issues that you’re too close to the writing to see anymore, you’re putting yourself in the best position possible to submit an excellent piece of writing.
Of course, one of the easiest ways you can get feedback on your writing is by visiting the Writing Resources Center. A one-on-one appointment with a trained tutor can give you professional advice you may need, with the added bonus of keeping you from bugging a busy parent or roommate for feedback. So what’s stopping you? Come and visit us today and get that second opinion! We’re happy to help!