What do you do when the written materials produced by your team aren’t up to par? Every boss has a different approach to this situation, but most tend to default to one of two positions:
- Fix the writing themselves.
- Send it back for correction.
The first option can be very tempting because it often seems faster and easier and the second isn’t necessarily guaranteed to produce desired results.
However, there’s also a hidden third path that’s better than both. To explain, here’s a tale of two bosses: one who does the rewriting himself, and one who sends the work back to her team.
Ben just fixes the writing himself.
His reasoning: sending the writing back for correction would take nearly as much time for him just to provide his feedback anyway. Then, he’ll have to wait days for the writer to send back an updated draft, and afterward he’ll have to repeat the whole review process again. He says, “It will take me 30 minutes to read the document and make the edits myself, but it will be done. We can get the content out the door.”
That seems like a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, the time required can add up quickly. Over time, Ben finds he’s having to correct more and more writing. We once had a client (on whom our hypothetical Ben is based) who spent 16 hours every week editing work produced by his engineering team. This overloaded him and created a lot of stress and frustration for him and his team.
Susan sends it back.
Ben’s reasoning can make a lot of sense in isolated circumstances, but Susan recognizes that doing someone else’s job leaves less time for her to do her own. Additionally, Susan believes that the net effect of the “I’ll just do it myself” mentality is tolerating mediocrity in her team.
However, it may not be enough to just send the material back for edits. What if her team members apply her requested edits without critically thinking about how or if the edits actually improve the final output? They’ll never improve as writers. Every future writing project will continue to take longer because the writing never improves.
Instead, train your writers.
If your edits and reviews are not simultaneously (a) making the documents and writing better and (b) improving the skills of the writer, there's a flaw in the process. Instead, give your writers the training they need to genuinely improve their skills. With that, they can produce better quality output from the beginning (and usually do so faster). That means fewer edits and revisions overall. Many times, it won’t be necessary to send documents back at all.
Just be conscientious and thoughtful about how you handle this skills development. Not every option will yield genuine, long-lasting improvement. For instance, AI writing tools and services like Grammarly can help writers, but they can also become an unthinking crutch that fails to solve underlying writing issues or problems. Local college classes and online courses might offer training in writing, but they’re going to be focused on grammatical correctness, not the business savvy or effectiveness of your written materials.
Business-oriented, purpose-specific writing training is key.
It’s worth noting that there’s another dimension to this question: perfectionism.
Sometimes the boss ends up taking on extra work writing and rewriting not because the writing needs it but because of their own perfectionism.
This is a sneaky problem because it often doesn’t feel like a problem; it disguises itself as “doing good work.” But busy people have to juggle competing demands, and if you or your team ends up spending an excessive amount of time on a writing project, you’re taking time away from other tasks like product development or customer service. This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the hallmarks of an expert writer isn’t necessarily perfection, which doesn’t exist anyway; it’s that the writer can correctly identify the minimum effective (“good enough”) quality needed for each piece of content.
In other words, if you’re writing a sales presentation to make to an important client, that’s a really important project. You absolutely want to dedicate as much time as it takes to craft a presentation that successfully makes the sale. You do not, however, want to spend any more time than that, because that extra time – even if it results in output that’s closer to “perfect” – doesn’t move the needle. You’ve already made the sale! It does, however, draw time away from other projects. Plus, if it means you’re sending endless rounds of revisions back to your team members, it will generate frustration and resentment too.
But how do you discern writing that’s “good enough” from writing that’s not? That too is a matter of skill, and writing skills development can be invaluable here too.
To figure out how to apply the hidden third option – maximizing your writers’ skills and capabilities – contact Hurley Write for a no-obligation consultation about your writing situation today.