Internal copy review pet peeves – and help with getting useful feedback [includes swipe copy]

Feb 19, 2021

When you request internal copy review, how often do you get the subject matter guidance and input you’re seeking? How often do you get a mess of unhelpful revisions that you have to sort through?

Last year, I worked on a big copy project for a client at a large, complex organization. The internal reviewers were very interested in providing feedback and very opinionated. My client is an absolute pro, but having been in her shoes, I could detect how hard she was working to manage all of the comments and feedback – both helpful and less than helpful.

The experience brought back bad internal copy review memories. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

Jargon-insertion. Among your reviewers is a jargon-lover whose head is so deep into their subject matter, they override such things as simple, clear language. They forget that they are not the audience and insert complex terminology, jargon and internal language into the draft copy.

Grammar quibbling. You have to work with a “grammar hobbyist” who loves enforcing their personal grammar preferences and pet peeves – even when they don’t align with your organization’s style guide.

Musing. Yes, musing! Instead of providing edits or comments, one of your reviewers asks questions. Not that asking questions is always a bad thing, but rather than verifying before commenting, they ask questions like: “Is this true?” or “Is it the correct spelling?” (You’re tempted to send this person a link to an online dictionary, but you probably can’t or shouldn’t.)

Changing it all back. One of your reviewers is the original author; the person who wrote the unsatisfactory copy you are now replacing. In the absence of other options, and despite a lack of appropriate writing skills, they had done their best. But now that you’re updating, revising or improving the copy, they take each change personally and revert everything to the way they had originally written it.

Out-of-scope comments. Rather than providing guidance within the context of your project, one of your reviewers is trying to use this opportunity to tackle bigger matters. They comment on areas that can’t be addressed during this writing project, like your organization’s approach, offerings, established strategic directions or priorities, or key messages.

Are these challenges part of your current internal review reality?

While there might be no way around including internal stakeholders in your review process, perhaps the way you ask for input can help you get useful, judiciously applied feedback.

Internal copy review pet peeves – and help with getting useful feedback (includes swipe copy) #NPMC Click To Tweet

How to ask for the copy feedback you actually need

To help get useful feedback, make sure to specify the following in your request for review:

  • Description: What is the copy for? Where will it be used? For example, on a web page, in an annual report, blog post, brochure, etc.
  • Purpose: Why is this copy being developed? How is it going to be used, and what results are you seeking?
  • Audience: Who are you trying to reach? Specifying your audience helps with moving away from jargon and overly “insider” content. Your reviewers are not your audience, and you might need to point this out.
  • The reason for your request: Why are these reviewers being included in the review process? Be clear that you are seeking subject matter – as opposed to writing, spelling, or grammar – expertise.
  • Context: Who wrote the copy? How does it fit into a larger project? Underscore the need for consistency of style, language and tone – which shoudn’t shift with each internal reviewer.

Swipe copy for internal copy review requests

You can easily address all of the points above in a quick “request for review” email – and I’ve drafted swipe copy for you to use as a template. Copy, paste and customize this swipe copy the next time you’re requesting feedback from internal reviewers:

Dear [X],

Thank you for agreeing to review this [website/marketing/newsletter/other] copy. This is the copy for our [additional details about the intended use], written to [purpose of the copy/project].

[Name of writer and possibly, their writing expertise] wrote this copy with our [name/describe] audience in mind; they were briefed on our project, audience and goals, as well as our writing and style guidelines.

We’re asking for your review and comments because of your subject matter expertise in [describe area]. We will be sure to put this copy through a final proofread, but if you happen to catch spelling or grammar errors, please feel free to note them.

Again, thank you for helping to ensure that this content is correct and complete.

[sign off]

Of course, you may need to adjust this template a little – or a lot – based on your internal relationships, roles and the specifics of your project.

Here’s what it might look like in action:

“Dear Lisa,

Thank you for agreeing to review this website copy. As you know, we’re developing copy for use throughout our new website and this is the copy for the programs section. As we’ve discussed, this page was written to explain your program and encourage new participants to sign up.

Mei, the web copywriting specialist we’ve brought in for this project, wrote this copy with our “parents of kids struggling with reading” audience in mind. She was briefed on our project, audiences and goals, as well as our writing and style guidelines.

We’re asking for your review and comments because of your subject matter expertise in literacy, and because you manage this program. We will be sure to put this copy through a final proofread, but if you happen to catch spelling or grammar errors, please feel free to note them.

Again, thank you for helping to ensure that this content is correct and complete.

Marlene”

Of course, there is a lot more to managing internal reviewers than how you ask for feedback. But I hope this template helps you to kick-off your internal review on the right track.

Requesting copy review by internal subject matter experts? Make sure you're asking for the feedback you actually need. (swipe copy included) #NMPC Click To Tweet

Are you interested in how you can work with me to help you develop your website content? Check out my website content strategy and core content web copy packages.

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