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Writing Within Organizations

Overcoming Pride of Authorship

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
-- Elbert Hubbard

Let's face it: No one likes to have work corrected. We dream that people will say, "It's brilliant! It's perfect! Let's run with it." But that doesn't always happen. In fact, it is much more common to be corrected than to be unconditionally praised. This is part of the writing process. Remember the adage, "Writing is rewriting what has already been rewritten."

So if you have sweated over your verbiage and then some senseless monster says that your work is not perfect, how do you cope? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Focus on achieving the purpose of the document.
It's not about you: It's about fulfilling your purpose. Hopefully you clarified your purpose before you began to write. The revision process is only about getting you to your goal.
2. Focus on the product.
Again, even though it may feel like it's about you, it's not. Take your focus off of yourself and put it on the words on the paper. What can be done to help them fulfill their purpose?
3. Listen respectfully.
Even if you disagree with your reviewer, listen carefully to what he or she says.
4. Look for seeds of truth.
Perhaps the reviewer is overemphasizing a minor flaw, perhaps not. Look for points that might be valid.
5. Don't take it personally.
In all likelihood, this person is not out to get you, gunning to reduce your contribution, or trying to suppress you. He just has a different vision for how the document should be written. He might be right in some ways and you might be right in some ways. Taking the criticism personally will only harm you, personally and professionally.
6. Avoid defensive behavior.
It may be too much to ask you not to feel defensive, but at least don't act defensive. It will just make you look foolish.
7. Ask for specific suggestions.
You have a right to ask for specific suggestions. You do not need to accept blanket or scathing criticisms without requesting something positive. Ask for a suggestion to go with every criticism. If the person can't think of one, take the time to discuss options together.
8. Win by letting go.
Release is the secret to serenity.
9. Smile and say thank you.
Believe it or not, this will help you accept the feedback. Even if you don't feel thankful, recall that the person did take the time to try to help you improve. Criticism may be an unwelcome gift but it is still a gift.
10. Breathe deeply and slowly.
This will help you do everything else on this list.

Pride of authorship is paradoxical. It is good to do work that you are proud of and to be proud of your work.  At the same time, if that pride keeps you from seeing what could be improved in your writing, it becomes an obstacle to excellence. Stay focused on creating the best product and you'll do fine.

©2012 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved

Tired of reading unclear, error-filled writing from your organization? Ready to transform the quality of your firm’s writing? Contact Elizabeth Danziger today to learn about the Worktalk Core Writing Trainings.  Call (310) 396-8303 or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Why choose WorkTalk trainings?

  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
  • Customized. +

    Every Worktalk training is customized to the client's needs. We meet with you, analyze writing samples from your organization, and customize our training to target the specific challenges that employees in your organization face.
  • Energetic and entertaining. +

    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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