How do I say it nicely: Giving polite feedback

Sometimes in school or work, or even between friends, we are asked to give feedback on a project, assignment, work-related item, or more casual things. In more formal settings, giving specific feedback on why something is good or bad can be helpful for your classmate or co-worker. Often it is difficult to give this feedback, especially if it is of a more critical or negative nature.

One way to express critical feedback politely is to “soften” it with certain words, asking open-ended questions, and being specific.

If someone asks you for feedback on something, but you after seeing / reading /hearing it, you’re confused:

I’m a little unclear about what / who you’re talking about here…


This section where you explain […] seems a bit out of place…


I was really interested to know more about….!

When you are specific about what exactly confuses you, it helps the person seeking feedback to know exactly what needs work.

If you have a suggestion, ask an open-ended question:

I’m a little unclear about who you’re talking about in that part. How can you explain this person more clearly?


How does this part fit in? How can you make it clearer?


The part where you talk about….is really engaging! What would happen if you moved it closer to the beginning?

Open-ended questions leave it up to the writer to evaluate what choices they have and how they want to use them (or not).

When you have a positive comment, be specific about what you liked:

Instead of “that was so good!”, try:

Your description of the place was so lively / clear / detailed / etc. I really felt like I was there!


Everything was very clear and easy to follow. I knew exactly what was taking place and who was involved. That made it really easy to follow.


What other feedback situations give you trouble? Leave me a comment!

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