The start of a technical writing project may seem quite daunting. The decision of where and how to begin generally presents a challenge, as projects differ greatly in terms of content and duration. However, you can incorporate these basic steps of content review in the technical writing process to make it more manageable:
- Map out the content review process in terms of time and the input required
- Organise reviewer availability
- Define writer responsibilities
- Decide on the number and format of reviews
Map the Content Review Process
One of the main factors to consider, particularly when undertaking a large-scale project, is to map out an agreed time schedule. This schedule marks the various milestones and the documentation delivery date. Also, include time for writing, regular content review, and the implementation of feedback from an external source. This could be from an editor, a peer reviewer, or a Subject Matter Expert (SME).
Organise Reviewer Availability
At the project’s outset, the writer should ensure that the documentation milestones are clearly marked out. To do this, ensure that writing time is included and signal the amount of time required for content review in advance. Start to line up the reviewers and book their time as far in advance as possible. Agree with them about how much time and the number of reviews likely to be required. When you define targets at the beginning of the project in this manner, you allow for more accurate time management.
Define Writer Responsibilities
Equally important is to not depend on reviewers to catch your mistakes. Edit your own work regularly to ensure that the content adheres to the correct style and is grammatically and syntactically correct. The continuous review of the material results in fewer edits and rewrites required at the final stages of the project when there may be considerable time pressures.
Decide the Number and Format of Reviews
Decide how many stages of content review are required. Perhaps three drafts are ideal, but some documents may require fewer, while larger projects may require even more. It may be possible to break the overall project into phases or chunks and the completion of each phase could include time for an evaluation of the content to date.
To ensure reviewing is as easy as possible for the reviewer, agree on a format for sharing review comments. This may mean to regularly communicate by email and attach the documents. Alternatively, you can use a web-based file-sharing system. Highlight areas that need particular SME attention. For example, if you send a draft to a technical SME and a marketing department representative, you could ask marketing to concentrate on the product description and the technical SME to focus on the task instructions respectively. This saves time and ensures faster and more efficient review turnarounds.
Conclusion: Content Review and Project Success
In summary, knowing who will review the content and their availability to the project helps to ensure the success of the project. Good communication between all stakeholders leads to more efficient and effective reviews. What’s more, when you incorporate content review into the project work cycle you ensure that errors are minimised and the final output is of the highest quality.