Re: FW: Everybody's a Reviewer

Subject: Re: FW: Everybody's a Reviewer
From: Sarah Perrault <sarahp -at- KEYSAFE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 13:58:00 PDT

I can understand your qualms. I'm getting feedback on her latest manual from
about 35 people, from the CEO to the most junior sales person. It's a little
nerve wracking. but having so many people review a doc is great.

First of all, the more feedback you get, the better the end product will be.
And if the document is, as you said, a decent one, think of all the people
who will see how good your work is. This is never a bad thing, in any company.

When dealing with review teams, especially large ones, I do several things:

1. Make a signoff sheet. Have people sign and date when they received the
doc. Sign and date it myself when I get their copy back. This way nobody can
say later they did not get a chance to review it.

2. Make a cover sheet that explains exactly what kind of feedback I want. I
always include a line about "Any other changes you think will improve the

3. When I first started with my current employer I also included a note that
all comments are appreciated, even if not all of them are used.

This let people know *my* judgement, and that of my technical advisors on
the document, would determine what actually went to print. When people know
this the bashful are likelier to write something, knowing I will check it,
and the overconfident are gently warned that I may not take their word as
gospel. After a while with the company my authority was established, and I
dropped that line.

4. On the cover sheet, put the reviewer's name, the document title, the date
you distributed the copies, and the date you want them back. I usually
highlight the return date in some obnoxious color *when* I hand the doc to
them. This makes them actually look at it.

5. *Handwrite* a thank you and my name on each cover sheet. I've found that
people appreciate this, and it takes only a few minutes of my time.

6. Send a reminder to people a few days before I am going to collect the
doc. I make it short and friendly -- "just letting you know I'm going to be
picking it up from you."

7. I don't let people keep the doc past the date I said I would collect it.
I take it back even if they have not written anything on it. This way they
cannot give it to me a week after we go to print and expect me to use their
changes. I also find this encourages people to actually meet the deadline I set.

8. If the reviewer is my manager, I ignore #7. :-) He knows that the longer
he keeps it, the later it will be.

9. And last but not least, I make it clear that I expect ALL feedback in
writing. Email is ok if they give me specific page #s, but I prefer writing
on the hard copy itself in colored ink. (Drives me nuts when I leave out a
comma and someone writes it in using black ink. I'm expected to pick that
out in a 120 page document?!)

I do NOT let people stop me in the hallway and tell me things about the
manual. I politely, but firmly, let them know I am in the middle of
something, and ask them to put it into writing. This saves me from lots of
wasted time, especially with large review teams.

I hope some of this is helpful,


Sarah Perrault
Technical Writer
Supra Products, Inc.

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