Sticks and Stones by Jock Mackenzie

Sticks and Stones

What feedback is and what I think about feedback.

What feedback isn’t.

Other thoughts.

A Parting Wish


Feedback is one person’s opinion about a piece of writing.

Feedback should never be hurtful.

Feedback isn’t necessary. Sometimes an author reads simply to share. Sometimes, by reading, an author can see/understand what is and isn’t working with a piece.

Feedback should be wanted – e.g. Here’s a poem I wrote 15 years ago OR It appears that sometimes a reader reads and isn’t open to feedback OR is not accepting of feedback

Positive feedback should be earned. Interestingly, club members have finished a piece of writing at the dinner table prior to the weekly meeting and feel okay about presenting it while the ink has hardly dried.

Feedback is an opinion. I’ve heard too many, “You should  . . .” instead of , “I think you should . . .”

I think feedback should be spoken and written – provide slips of paper?

I think the reader has the option (and I would suggest – responsibility) to ask for specific feedback. i.e. What is the writer trying to achieve? Is there a hurdle the writer needs to get over?

I think it should contain a two-one ratio of praise to questions/concerns

In the Disney movie, Bambi, Thumper’s mother reminds him of his father’s words, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin at all.”

I think feedback should contain specific references to what was read. e.g. You painted such a great picture with your word choices. I love your similes: as smooshy as an over-ripe raspberry, they chittered like hummingbirds

I think feedback needs a short time limit – usually.

I think feedback should occasionally be a conversation. i.e. An exchange


Feedback is not an opportunity to for opinions and/or storytelling on the content e.g Yes, your story of the family picnic reminds me of when we used to go out West blah, blah, blah

Feedback doesn’t need to be an “all call.” e.g. Who wants to comment on Joe’s reading? It could be asked for. i.e. let the reader choose a few people to comment

Feedback is not a task to be monopolized by the few or by those who are readily willing to give it (and give it and give it). I think we all learn who’s willing to give feedback and who isn’t. Be aware and encourage feedback from those who don’t usually give it. Even if you are simply trying to be helpful because no one else offers, sometimes, just keep quiet.


Readers given a time limit should stick to it so there’s time for feedback. Being the timekeeper is a tough job but if the speaker takes up some of the feedback time, maybe it’s a lesson well learned.

Feedback doesn’t have to be limited to the few minutes given at the end of a presentation. At a break or after the meeting or in an email or at the next meeting is sometimes even better; it’s feedback given once the listener has had time to consider more carefully.

Audience members should take time to ask themselves: Is my feedback helpful? Would I like to be given my kind of feedback?

A moderator and a timekeeper need to play a role. The moderator chooses who to ask and in what order and may even have to interject (remind) if the feedback is any of the things I’ve mentioned it shouldn’t be. The timekeeper keeps on timing.

Club members need to reinforce positive feedback and react to hurtful feedback. Leaving praise or censure to the president/moderator is unfair.


Honest, well-worded feedback can be invaluable. It can educate, affirm, clarify, encourage.

Jock Mackenzie