A primary need of writers is to feel listened to and for their voice, however tentative, to be heard. (Elbow 1981, chapters 3 and 13 on sharing and feedback is relevant here.) To this end, it helps if writers are pro-active and specify a specific form of response they are asking for. (This contrasts with the default option for responding to writing, namely, advisors, instructors, and editors fill the margins of drafts with specific suggestions for clarification and change. This practice often does not lead to the desired rethinking and Revision
, in part, because it does not meet the writer's primary need as stated above.)
Elbow and Belanoff (2000) describe eleven approaches and when each one might be most helpful. They include the following:Sharing: No Response (Ask someone to listen while you read aloud to them what you have written.)
Point to Center of Gravity (“Which sections somehow seem important or resonant or generative?”)
What is Almost Said? What Do You Want to Hear More About?
Believing and Doubting (In this variant of methodological believing [Elbow 1986] the commentor first captures the virtues of what has been written and suggests how to build on these before shifting to be a devil's advocate. The commentor is free to be very enthusiastic in believing because doubting will follow, and is free to be critical in doubting, because believing has gone first.)
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power
. New York: Oxford University Press.
Elbow, P. (1986). “Methodological doubting and believing: Contraries in inquiry.” Embracing Contraries.
New York: Oxford University Press, 254-300.
Elbow, P. and P. Belanoff (2000). Summary of Kinds of Responses, in Sharing and Responding
. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 7ff.