How to manage the document creation process

Maintaining document integrity

I met a friend recently. She was in the midst of writing a report. It was the sort of document that needed to be shared with colleagues for their input and comment.

Over the course of a week, she’d received more input than she knew what to do with. Some of it was insulting – delivered in the style of an irritated headmistress who really didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t make better use of semi-colons. Some of it was vague: “Do we really want to say this?” Some of it was blunt and dictatorial: “Cut all this!” Some of it was even helpful.

“I really don’t know which way to turn,” she said.

The truth is that very few people are taught how to write in professional environments. And even fewer learn the editorial processes that make document creation a professional endeavour.

So instead they revert to the only situations where they’ve ever seen text being reviewed, judged and graded. They place themselves in the role of “teacher” and the author in the role of “pupil” – and often, a fairly naughty pupil at that.

Hackles rise. Feathers are ruffled. Individuals get lost in a red-pen frenzy of “marking”. The professional dynamic is lost.

We see this a lot. In fact, we experience it regularly too.

So we’ve prepared guidelines for our clients on giving feedback and on maintaining document integrity. At some point in the near future, we’ll probably create one on editorial project management too. Check our resources page regularly and you’ll find them all there.

Our guidelines set out how to give and manage feedback – and how to maintain document integrity – in settings where multiple individuals are all involved in creating work together. They encourage everyone involved to remember that the dynamic should always be professional adult to professional adult. If you’re creating a document you’re not a school kid. If you’re reviewing it, you’re not superior, more grown-up or a better communicator. You’re simply all professionals with different expertise, sharing knowledge and insight to better serve an audience.

Our guidelines are free for anyone to download and use in their organisations. And as always, if you ever want to discuss projects, processes or ideas, just give us a call.