What are four primary attributes of an effective writing team? What types of writing projects require collaboration?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Although many of the assignments you do in school as a student are individual, in businesses most long or high stakes writing projects are produced by writing teams. The reason teams are needed for these projects is twofold: adequate representation of all stakeholders and attaining synergies from shared expertise. For example, a team producing a user manual for a software product might include a programmer from the software development team, a lead writer, a graphic designer, a proofreader, and a representative of the marketing department. A more complex document, for example a proposal for a new military weapons system or a power plant, may run to several thousand pages, and requires a large team of writers, technical experts, and legal staff to complete tasks ranging from ensuring technical accuracy to verifying that the formatting is consistent across the entire document. Many large-scale projects, such as nuclear power plants or urban subways, require hundreds of thousands of documents that must be generated, edited, updated as project details change, and archived. Writing teams for such projects can run to hundreds of people.

Four of the important attributes for writing teams are:

Leadership/Decision Making: Before starting a team project, the team needs to establish leadership and decision making protocols. To gain the greatest benefit from collaboration, all team members need to have input on decisions, but also decisions need to be made quickly and efficiently, and once decision are made, everyone needs to be on board with them. 

Planning: A detailed plan, including an outline with strict target dates for each milestone and clear assignment of team members to specific tasks, is essential for producing collaborative writing.

Conflict Resolution: There needs to be a mechanism for conflict resolution and for dealing with team members who are not contributing to team goals. 

Consistency: Maintaining consistency in a document written by multiple people is complicated. Developing a style sheet for the document, specifying such things as body and headline fonts and citation styles before you start writing is important. The final edit needs to review the document as a whole for consistency of tone, terminology, and format as well as smoothness of transitions. 

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