How to review copy 

Reviews are an essential part of all copywriting services. No one’s perfect first time, every time, no matter how much we all wish we were. And, more importantly, no one knows your business, your audience, and your objectives as well as you do. 

When it comes to reviews, though, it can be hard to know what’s expected of you. It’s very easy to just say “it’s ok” whether you mean it or not, and that can leave both you and your copywriter feeling a little unsatisfied. It’s also super easy to over-review and over-edit because what has been delivered isn’t exactly as you would have written it yourself. 

Remember: No one will ever write anything exactly the way you would have. 

So, before you get stuck into reviewing the latest copy delivered to your inbox, let’s take a step-by-step walk-through of the review process and how to provide feedback well. 

1. Turn track changes on

The absolutely essential first step is to turn track changes on. Do NOTHING before you have done this. 

How you do this depends on your word processor. 

Microsoft Word desktop app 

  1. Click Review 
  2. Click Track Changes 

Selecting “All Markup” will show you your changes as you make them. “Simple Markup” shows you what the document looks like after your changes as if you were editing directly. 

Microsoft Word online

  1. Click Editing drop down and select Reviewing 

OR 

  1. Click Review 
  2. Click the Track Changes drop down and select For Everyone 

There’s a little less functionality in Word online than the desktop app, but it still does the job. 

Google Docs

  1. Click the Editing drop down 
  2. Select Suggesting 

Again, Google Docs misses the full functionality of the Word desktop app. It has an option for “Viewing” which says it will show the final document, but this shows the original, not the edited (or suggested) version so use it with caution. 

When Track Changes is on, you’re ready to get stuck in. 

2. Revisit the brief

A lot has happened since you briefed the project in. It may have been a few days or a few weeks, and you’ve had a lot of things on your mind and your to-do list so it’s worthwhile going back to your original brief and reminding yourself exactly what you asked for. 

It’s not uncommon for your needs to change. If what you need now is different to your initial brief, don’t review the document yet. Marking up a document with the new requirements in mind can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration. Instead, reach out to the copywriter to talk through the changes. If the changes are minor, they may ask you to review the copy they’ve submitted and add comments regarding the changes required. If they’re significant, they may need to charge additional fees. 

3. Read the copy in full, from your audience’s viewpoint

Before marking up any changes, read the copy from end to end to get a feel for the whole piece. Does the structure make sense? Does the story flow? Are all the important pieces included? 

Make sure you’re reviewing the copy from your target audience’s point of view. They have different goals, needs and knowledge to you and it’s them the work is for. 

Use the Comments functionality in Word or Docs to add your feedback about structure and flow, missing or confusing sections, or areas of the work that seem too dense or light with information. 

4. Edit the words directly

Don’t rewrite the content, but do directly edit any pieces that must be written in a certain way (e.g. for legal reasons) or terms you want replaced throughout (e.g. “business” vs “company”). 

If you’re generally happy with the piece, you can make more edits and simply ask your copywriter to review your additions for grammar and simplicity. Some copywriters love this, other’s hate it. At Engage, we love it because we can easily see that we’re on the right track and fix the specific sections you need us to pay attention to. 

If you feel like you need a complete rewrite, pick up the phone and talk to your copywriter. 

Good to know…

Full rewrites generally arise from one of three scenarios: 

1
Your brief was unclear

In general, it’s up to the copywriter to clear up any confusion before they get started. However, if you include info in the wrong section, like “must haves” in a “other notes” section, you won’t get what you need.

2
Your needs have changed since briefing

It happens to everyone now and again but be aware that this is more than a revision and may be charged at further cost.

3
You hired the wrong copywriter

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. There’s no test you need to pass to offer your services as a copywriter so there are extreme differences in both the cost and quality of copywriters out there. Does this mean high-cost copywriters are always better? No. But higher charges are usually an indicator of skill and experience. 

5. Collect feedback from stakeholders

When working with multiple stakeholders in your business you might think, “Well, I’ll just get the copywriter to incorporate my comments first then I’ll get the others involved in round 2.” 

Good in theory, but in practice most copywriters limit their services to two rounds of review. That means if your stakeholders have some significant edits to be made, providing this feedback in round two leaves you open to the risk the copywriter doesn’t completely “get it”. 

So always include all stakeholders in round one. 

When you’ve received stakeholder feedback, quickly review to ensure all comments are included in one file and changes are tracked. If there’s any conflicting comments or feedback, make a clear decision before sending the file back to your copywriter. 

Tip: Have a strict legal review process? Speak to your copywriters about whether they’d be willing to offer a third, legal-specific round of review. Some may be willing to accommodate this free of charge or for a small additional fee. 

6. Send the file back

Before you hit Send on that email, it’s good practice to include some overarching comments in your email to give your copywriter a sense of the feedback before they dig into the details. Is it generally good with some minor tweaks required? Is it not speaking to the right audience? Does it feel too complex or confusing? Does it deviate too far from the brief? 

If you’re nervous about this, you can always use the sandwich approach to feedback:  

  1. Good comment or praise (bread) 
  2. Negative comment (filling) 
  3. Good comment (bread) 

It’s an effective way to soften any blow for both of you. 

And that’s it! Sit back and wait for round two to hit your inbox. At Engage, we aim for two business days, but it can take up to a week. 

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