How to avoid the curse of the committee when writing a long document

Avoid the curse of the committee when writing a long documentA little while ago, I witnessed a document authored by a committee. It was only four pages of A4, but different sections were written by various contributors, sent to a focus group, rewritten again by the contributors, designed and redesigned before being printed and distributed.

This used up a lot of time and resources from all those involved and, I believe, produced a document that failed to achieve its full potential.

Committees can’t write; individuals write.

Appoint an editor

If there’s more than one writer, an editor needs to manage the process to produce a unified text rather than a cobbled-together collection of inconsistent contributions.

This means giving the editor the power to make decisions: tough for committees that find it hard to delegate and prefer to approve every little thing. If they select a good editor, they’ll find it one of the best decisions they ever make and their communications will improve dramatically.

Effective editorial management

An editor can ensure the document:

  • has an agreed aim
  • is written in a suitable style for the business or organisation
  • complies with a style guide or corporate guidelines
  • is consistent in language, tone and format throughout
  • doesn’t contradict itself in sections written by different authors

An editor can also ensure contributors make submissions by agreed deadlines and keep production on schedule.

All this should avoid the need for extensive rewrites and designs which inevitably produce a document that satisfies no one.

Document writing problems and how to avoid them

Read about some of the problems that occur when a committee does try to write a document at our proofreadingresources.co.uk web site.

If you’re about to produce a document:

  • call 0333 0444 354 or email  if you need an editor

• by Robert Zarywacz
partner @ Zarywacz | copywriter @ copywritingresources.co.uk | Please call 0333 0444 354 or email  to ask us to write for you.

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