WRITING WEDNESDAY: The Sandwich Technique

Back in my third year of med school, one of my (all-time favorite) attendings had to give one of our patients bad news. Not “you have two weeks to live and your dog just died” bad news, just moderately inconvenient news (I think the patient had to stay in the hospital for another week for IV antibiotics, or something). Anyway, he introduced me to something called the Sandwich Technique. Keep your minds out of the gutter, y’all – the Sandwich Technique is just a method for delivering bad news. This is how it works:

You start with the first piece of bread — something good. i.e. “So, the infection in your lungs is really improving!”

Then you get to the meat of it — the bad news. “Unfortunately, the bacteria in your lungs really only responds to such-and-such antibiotic, which can only be given intravenously. This means you’re going to have to stay here in the hospital for another three days.”

And then, the last piece of bread — ending on a positive note. “But the good news is, we do expect you to make a full recovery. Yay!”

Okay, so I would never actually say “yay” to a patient, but you get the point. Obviously this doesn’t work all the time (sometimes there is no good news :-(), but the reason I bring it up is because this technique – the Sandwich Technique – is great for writing book reviews — OR for critiquing your CP’s manuscript!

I’ve written a little about this before, but being a good reviewer or CP is all about balance. If you have nothing but bad things to say, you are not being helpful. And if you have nothing but GOOD things to say (OMG your book is the bessssst it’s gonna sell a billion copies!!), that’s honestly just as bad. So if you’re new to reviewing, or new to CP-ing, consider using this technique. Start with the good, then the bad, then wind it all up on a positive note.

Happy writing, everyone!

xo Elizabeth


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