So you and your team have risen to the challenge and finally written that report. Well done! See? Writing collaboratively isn’t so bad! But what about the final output? Unless you’ve checked it carefully, you may have produced the written equivalent of cacophony: “energetic,” perhaps, but not so easy on your reader. Before snapping the laptop shut, make sure your team takes that last key step in the collaborative writing process: harmonizing many voices into one.
Editing for one voice involves bringing consistency in mechanics, perspective, and style to a multi-authored document; and takes a practiced – and objective – eye. It starts with acknowledging that there could be a problem with your team’s document in the first place.
From easier- to tougher-to-spot, here’s a list of tell-tale signs that your multi-authored document needs help:
- Shifts in font, format, or other mechanics
- Shifts in spelling or acronym usage (health care vs. healthcare; AA vs. A.A.)
- Shifts in person or perspective (“I” vs. “we” vs. “the authors” vs. “our team”)
- Shifts in tense (“completes” vs. “completed”)
- Shifts in terminology (“document” vs. “report” vs. “proposal”)
- Absence of transitions
- Lapses in logic (“as stated previously” – but never actually stated!)
- Shifts in style (verbose vs. tight, dull vs. engaging)
To ensure your document sings with one strong voice:
- Assign a document steward whose role it is to “tie it all together.” Give this individual “last eyes” responsibility – and editing power – to make necessary adjustments before you declare your document “done.”
- Ask each contributor to keep a simple list of commonly used terms. The act of recording terms is often enough to keep most writers conscious of the need for consistency – and helps the document steward align all terms on the back-end.
- Electronically “search and replace” inconsistent terms. Exercise caution, of course!
- Consciously read the document for transitions. If they’re missing, add them.
- Create an outline from the finished document to check for lapses in flow and logic. The more difficult this task – or the more convoluted the resulting outline – the more likely the need for heavier editing.
Harmonizing many voices – while retaining personalities and an engaging style – requires a little more finesse. Relax: Scholar’s Secret – Indy’s first and only academic coaching service for college-bound students – offers “voice coaching” for teams, too. Contact us anytime!