Gathering edits from several people

Subject: Gathering edits from several people
From: "Beth Kane" <bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com>
To: <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 14:54:24 -0700

I've seen a lot of discussion on the list about electronic editing and other
ways to gather SME comments. I wanted to tell you about ONE of the
techniques I've used for years that I still really like. It can be a major

1. All reviewers are given a hard copy and are asked to mark up all trouble
areas -- not necessarily with detailed notes; brief notes or even an X might
serve the purpose. (They like that, because they are not writers!)
2. The tech writer schedules a meeting. All reviewers bring their marked-up
copies to the meeting.
3. All present go through the document page by page -- "Anyone have anything
on page 1? Page 2?"
4. When an issue arises, everyone is present to discuss and resolve it. The
tech writer makes notes on her/his own copy that incorporate everyone's
5. If it becomes apparent that one person is an expert on one aspect, the
tech writer can arrange an additional meeting with that person so as not to
take up everyone's time.)
6. The tech writer serves as a moderator to keep things moving and quell
arguments. This can be fun! (If she handles it badly, the meeting could take
three days instead of two hours, and there's danger that participants will
get sick of the process and stop showing up.)
7. The tech writer has saved a lot of time. She takes her single copy of
notes and immediately puts the agreed-upon changes into the manual.
8. The SMEs retain their own copies, so if they want to check the final copy
later to make sure their corrections got into it, they can.

One benefit of this method is if one of your SMEs is a quiet/difficult type,
the group interaction can smooth the process of prying info out of that

Be forewarned that regarding #5 and 6, if everyone is really enthusiastic
about the subject and they want to learn from each other, it may not be
possible to keep the meeting short. If there's no way you have enough time
to allow everyone to go on & on as they wish, tell the ones who are trying
to learn from others during the meeting that they'll need to read the manual
later. You can offer those people a quick second draft.

In time, you'll devise ways to make this process go faster when it starts to
bog down and your deadline's looming. For example, you might have to skip
some of the less crucial areas of the document. Save the major areas for the
discussion. "We're going to run out of time, so I'd like to skip to page 42
now." In that case, you might have to gather up their marked-up copies to
play catch-up. Reminder: make sure every copy has the reviewer's name on it,
unless you know their handwriting. ;-)

Oh, one more thing -- if there's a troublemaker who simply loves to argue,
you can discreetly leave that person out of the process next time. Deal with
him/her privately.

Beth Kane
Senior Technical Writer
Total Control Information Inc.
bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com

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