Collaborative Writing

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“Tips for successful collaborative writing”
by Stephen Wilbers
If you ever have worked on a committee, task force, or project development team, you probably know the frustration of group work. If you’re lucky, you also know the joy.The nature of your experience depends on two factors: whether the individual participants share common, clearly defined goals and whether they know how to work together.All of this, of course, applies to collaborative writing, a collective activity that – perhaps as much as any other – requires that participants hold their egos in check and that they be willing to compromise.Here are some tips on how to succeed in collaborative writing:Determine your purpose. Identify both your general goal and your specific objectives. Be clear about what you want your audience to do as a result of reading or hearing your message.Analyze your audience. Identify your audience’s perspective, values, biases, concerns, and culture. If you are writing to both a primary and a secondary audience, consider how they might differ.Formulate an outline and determine an organizational format. Determine the major components of the project. You also might want to agree on subject headings and format. Clarify the degree to which individual team members may depart from the broad outline.Choose a team leader. Define the team leader’s role and responsibilities. As Charles Brusaw points out in The Business Writer’s Handbook, the team leader usually "does not have decision-making authority, just the extra responsibility of coordinating the team members’ activities and organizing the project."Assign writing tasks and other duties. Decide who will be responsible for gathering information, conducting research, producing the document, distributing copies, etc. Decide whether to use a single writer or multiple writers. If you use multiple writers, assign the different parts of the project.Establish a schedule of deadlines for drafts and revisions. Schedule the first...
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