As an editor, I am responsible for responding to people who are unhappy with a point of view expressed in editorial content. I keep several principles in mind when I am responding to negative comments. First of all, I assume that nothing I am going to say is going to change the mind of the person who was offended. While I would like to think that I have strong persuasive powers, the reality is that someone who is unhappy enough to write to the editor about an issue has strongly held beliefs. Secondly, I need to learn from comments and consider if we need to make changes to editorial practices. That doesn’t mean that every comment results in an editorial change, but if there is some sensitivity that is being missed in our editorial process, then we should learn from comments and work on improving our content process.

I use the following principles in crafting a response:

  • Keep it short. While it is tempting to respond point by point to criticism, the longer the response, the more someone can disagree with.
  • Keep it neutral. Affirm their point of view without necessarily agreeing to it. Phrases such as, “I appreciate that you care deeply about this topic.”
  • Keep it positive. Thank them for sharing their views and for being a caring reader.

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By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

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