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You are probably familiar with this situation: I spend weeks or months writing something and then give it to someone for proof-reading.

When I get it back, some remarks bother me or annoy me. Especially comments like "not understandable" or "what does it mean?" or "is it important?". And I think: "really!?" I invested hours in this sentence or paragraph, and the comments sound so arrogant. They feel like someone is saying, "Do it over; this is bullshit." Or do I leave it like it is and explain why it is correct - and wonder why the commentator didn't consider that maybe the issue lies on his side. I am often not sure if the commentator is aware of its implications.

But I have noticed that I have commented as a proof-reader in the same way (because I have never learned otherwise), and I want to change that. I don't find this a respectful, valuing, discussion-friendly way, and I would like to change this. You would never communicate with each other in this way in a conversation.

Now, I write in my comments more precisely which aspect I don't understand or try to explain how I understand it and why it makes no sense. I also try to make suggestions on how to improve. This takes more time, but I hope to show the author more appreciation for what he or she has written as well as for his previous work.

So I wanted to ask you:

  1. Is there a guide or an overview of how to comment in such a valuable, friendly and respectful way?
  2. How to write comments in a "friendly" and "appreciative" style?
  3. How to criticize good and fair? Are there any blogs or literature about this topic? This is not only the daily bread at university but also in language classes at school. I want to motivate the students to re-work their papers because I don't want them to lose interest through "bad" comments.

Thanks for your help!

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