Drafts back in time?

Subject: Drafts back in time?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 09:41:43 -0400

Amber Young wondered: <<Do you all have any tips/tricks for getting your
drafts back on time fromthe (way too) many people who have to edit them?...
It takes me maybe a week to write a manual and a month to get it back from
all the departments who need to sign off on it.>>

I'm a big fan of the "relationship" approach: once you get to know the
reviewers well enough that they see you as a friend or fellow toiler in the
salt mines rather than as someone who exists solely to randomly add to their
work load, you'll have a lot more luck when you ask for favors. Here are a
few tips that can help you both establish those relationships and use them
to get the reviews done on time:

- Ask about the best (and worst) time to send the manuscript for review.
Then juggle your writing schedule so you can send it at a good time, not a
bad one. (i.e., show some consideration for their needs)

- When you deliver the manuscript, negotiate a deadline rather than imposing
one. (i.e., make them a partner in the process rather than your reluctant

- Send them a perfectly edited manuscript (to the limit of your abilities)
so they can focus on content, not style. Remind them to focus on content,
not style.

- Send them the format they prefer to work with: Some people refuse to edit
onscreen, others won't work with paper, and others still want to read the
manuscript with you and discuss it.

- Send them only the parts they're qualified to review. If they're
intimidated by receiving large chunks of text all at once, offer them the
alternative of receiving several small chunks, scattered over a period of a
couple weeks.

- Follow up after delivering a manuscript to confirm that they received it
(if you aren't able to hand-deliver it) and that they still feel they can
meet your deadline. Renegotiate as required.

If you're an STC member or have access to interlibrary loan, check out the
following articles:
Hart, G.J. 1997. Accentuate the negative: obtaining effective reviews
through focused questions. Technical Communication 44(1):52-57.
Hart, G.J. 2000. Getting reviewers to review. Intercom (April 2000): 44.
[More than a little tongue in cheek, but if you do the opposite of all the
advice in the article, you'll get good results. <g>]

<<SOP requires that they have it no more than a week, but no matter how much
I nag...>>

It's not "standard operating procedure" if nobody follows the procedure.
Perhaps it's time for their managers and yours to agree that reviews are
important and deliver the message (firmly but gently) to the reviewers? Try
my approach first, but be prepared to ask them to wield the big bat if
necessary. "Good cop/bad cop" sometimes works wonders.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it
is."--Terry Pratchett


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