Concurrent writing and revision

Subject: Concurrent writing and revision
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 06:17:33 -0600

I missed the start of this thread, so I can't reply personally. If
I've understood this correctly, the authors want to keep revising the
document right up to the release (or due) date, right? Bad idea. Even
if you can figure out a mechanism for ensuring that your editor
approves _all_ changes after the initial edit, you're vastly
multiplying the editor's work as well as the chance for errors. For
example, what if a subject matter expert decides that a safety margin
should actually be 20% instead of 10%, and these margins have been
entered into the document as the calculated numbers (n multiplied by
1.1) rather than as %? The editor must remember to check the entire
document for all numbers (easy to forget under deadline pressure),
determine which numbers used the 10% margin, and correct only those
numbers; if oblique references to these numbers or conclusions based
on these numbers are also present somewhere hidden in the document,
these have to be changed too, and they can be next to impossible to
find without re-editing the entire manuscript. There are countless
other examples of the problems you can get into. Don't go there!

Bottom line: Authors must be made accountable for their own work, and
must eventually learn to do it right within a few revisions. This
requires both personal accountability and a peer review process that
will catch such errors early in the process, long before you've
invested time in editing the manuscript. (If numbers are uncertain,
the numbers and any conclusions based on them must be clearly
identified so they're easy to find and change later.) Anything else
is a recipe for introducing errors and burning out your editors.

If the question was actually whether you can edit while a document is
still under development and thereby save time, then the answer is a
qualified yes. All you need to do is make sure that there's only one
master copy of the document, and that someone (probably the editor)
will be the person to consolidate review comments into that one
master copy. You'll also have to figure out some way to get reviewers
to focus on substantive issues, not grammar and typography; in my
experience, that's almost impossible. The reason I don't give this a
blanket endorsement is the same as I stated earlier: tracking down
the logical consequences of seemingly small changes can be difficult
at best, and sometimes impossible under deadline pressure.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it
means."--Inigo Montoya

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