Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for the review and editing process to devolve into hostility and one-upmanship. This adversarial approach will corrode the editing process because it can lead to participants tearing down each other’s work — even if it's good! — making the editing process unnecessarily difficult and slow.
A few simple steps can foster a collaborative, cooperative approach to document review.
1: Make sure everyone is driving toward the same goal.If reviewers have different goals or agendas from writers (or, worse, if they imagine themselves in competition with each other), the whole review process could fall apart. Everyone needs to be on the same side, driving toward a shared and mutually understood end goal.
2: Engage the writer directly and ask questions.If reviewers are confused or uncertain about some of the written material, ask the writer about it rather than immediately revising or deleting it. In fact, even before beginning the review process, it could be helpful for writers and reviewers to confer, so reviewers understand the writers’ approach and strategy.
3: Critique the writing, not the writer.It's human nature; writers will sometimes take critiques personally, especially if writing isn’t their core professional discipline. It works in reverse too: reviewers can sometimes take it personally when their edits are rejected or questioned. When either party feels personally attacked, the process automatically turns adversarial. The best way to sidestep this problem is to make sure everyone is critiquing the work and not the person and his/ her abilities.
4: Always include positive comments as well.Another strategy to help avoid writers taking criticism personally is to include praise. This helps in another way as well: to produce better work in the future, writers need to understand both what works and what doesn’t. With only negative comments, they get only half the feedback they need.
5: Write well.It should go without saying: editors must also be able to express themselves effectively through the written word. Editing and writing are two different skill sets but are intimately interwoven. If reviewers can’t write with clarity, brevity, and persuasiveness, they can end up producing critiques and edits that are confusing, misleading, and perhaps even counterproductive.
6: Get training.Ultimately, effective review, editing, and revision are a matter of skill. Reviewers who have mastered these skills will produce feedback that’s more useful and effective, and they’ll know how to do it such that strengthens working relationships instead of breaking them down.
Ready to learn the tactics for expert reviewing? Your team’s time is valuable, so why waste it on an ineffective review process? Our interactive Better Editing and Reviewing Techniques course offers tips, tricks, and skills to turn your team into more effective reviewers and revisers.