Word Inflation

A while back, I collaborated on a project to produce a document suitable for public dissemination.

I noticed that when collaborators sent back edits and improvements to the draft’s author, each received a comment like: ‘Awesome Changes!’, or ‘This will really make our document Awesome!’, or ‘The new formatting is Totally Awesome!’.

In reality, the changes did make the document incrementally better, but this exchange made me think about the non-communication that has developed from the over use of laudatory remarks for non-laudatory work.

This feedback to the originator is analogous to giving a trophy to everyone on the team, regardless of their contribution or skill level – it’s a cheap ‘feelgood’ for showing up but does nothing to help the player (collaborator) improve their output. If a slap-dash revision is greeted with the same accolade as a masterwork improvement, what does the collaborator learn about their contribution?

Valid feedback is a precious gift from the giver because it shares an engaged point of view. The remark ‘thanks, that clarified the point’ provides value, as does ‘thanks for the edit, but I did not see much improvement over the original wording’. How does Awesome convey either message? Any message?

I certainly hope you feel this post was Awesome, and will comment appropriately.

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Dick Davies

Reading your post, I realized that “awesome” is like “groovy,” or “bee’s knees,” showing enthusiasm without clue, much like a “thumbs up” or endorsements on LinkedIn. Criticism establishes a context or adds to the meaning, which takes more effort.

David B. Grinberg

Interesting points. You know that saying about people catching more bees with honey. Thus I suggest adding a little honey up front prior to the constructive criticism — that is, assuming the honey is likewise constructive to some extent.

Don Arnold

Without judging the efficacy of “awesome” as an editorial assessment, I think you are asking for too much. My response as a doc owner to useful edits would probably be “Thanks.” and no more. The edit purpose is not to generate feelgood feeedback but to improve the document. Is this about teaching editing skills, or about creating a document? Courtesy, not comity, is appropriate.