Peer editing metrics question?

Subject: Peer editing metrics question?
From: Geoff hart <ghart -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000 18:56:32 -0500

Simon wonders <<Does anyone have a rule of thumb for proportion of time spent
writing / editing in a group? We have about 30 writers and I want to introduce
peer editing. To get buy-in and scheduling from management, I need to come up
with a figure. Supposing you take out all other factors and simply consider
two writers, writing and editing each other's work, what would be the
proportion of time spent in each activity?>>

I don't think anyone can give you a truly useful metric, since the actual
productivity of editing will vary greatly depending on how good the writing is,
what activities you include in editing (e.g., fact checking or just making the
writing read better?), how good you are as editors, the tools you use for
editing (e.g., online vs. on-paper), the work environment (it's impossible to
edit well in a busy, noisy environment), and the distractions (phone calls,
meetings, interruptions, other duties), among many other things.

But that's dodging your question. It should be possible to edit at least 4
pages per hour to "final quality" even for dense, technical, poorly written
material (I'm basing this on the most recent edit I did of a Japanese
scientist's manuscript, which was written in moderately rough English). I'd
recommend that if you really want a useful metric, take examples from your own
work, clearly define what you consider to be a good edit, and then time
yourself doing that editing. Ideally, have half a dozen writers each edit half
a dozen short documents of varying quality to get a handle on how fast _you_
are at editing _your_ actual work, and how the times vary. Include some kind of
fudge factor to account for the variations you observe among your editors. Use
that to establish a metric. And don't forget to add up the total time; you may
find that with 30 writers, hiring a professional editor full-time or part-time
might make more sense. A professional will generally do a better job, faster,
than a bunch of enthusiastic and reasonably skilled amateurs.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- netcom -dot- ca
Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada
"Most business books are written by consultants and professors who haven't
spent much time in a cubicle. That's like writing a firsthand account of the
Donner party based on the fact that you've eaten beef jerky."--Scott Adams, The
Dilbert Principle

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