Why it matters
Before we get to the reviewing process, let’s clear up why you need to review the materials written by someone else.
First of all, it’s important to the commercial success of your team. No matter what you’re working on right now, whether it’s your team’s product or you’re on an outstuff/outsource project – the work of a content writer is always aimed at bringing value to your team. If it’s an employer branding project, you’ll get a colleague that will take a part of your workload. If it’s a post aimed at attracting clients, you’ll get a chance to work on a new interesting project. If these are tutorials on how to use your team’s product, it will gain new users and the product profitability will increase.
It’s worth mentioning that the era of SEO-optimized content (in its traditional meaning) has gone long ago. Of course, keywords are crucial but keyword stuffing (100 keywords in one single paragraph) can only annoy readers. Today, it’s more important to create really useful content, even for a small group of people than to write viral posts about “Blockchain,” “Artificial Intelligence,” or “Augmented Reality.” The core of a post should be the readers’ problem and its solution. The shorter the better. To create such content we need in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience in a specific field. Your knowledge and experience. Therefore, collaboration is inevitable.
Second of all, it’s your reputation that’s at stake. When you cooperate with a content writer on something, your name will be cited as a co-author, or even as a sole author of a piece. The modern employer often checks such things in your resume, especially if you apply for the position of senior or lead. So, you had better mind the quality of copies you add to your CV.
If I have convinced you, let’s move on to the most important steps one should take when reviewing and editing materials.
That’s right! The collaboration begins way before a content writer starts working on the material. At least it should. Otherwise, it’ll be much harder to check the text you didn’t even know exists. The more you participate before and during the content creation, the easier it will be for you to review it. Here’s why.
- You know the purpose of this content piece and the audience it should attract. Thus, you know exactly what information is going to be new for the readers and what terms, processes, and technologies should be explained.
- You contribute to the article plan outlining. You can immediately point out the main aspects that should be fully disclosed in the article. In this case, checking the material will take much less time.
- You will have time to prepare examples, screenshots, or other artifacts necessary for the completeness of the material. While the writer is working on the text, you will be able to reflect and remember interesting cases from your experience, which can then be added to the article.
Start your cooperation with a meeting to discuss who this article is for, where it will be published, and what problem it will solve for the readers. Make sure that the problem is acute and relevant, and immediately outline the plan of the article. Don’t be surprised if in the course of the discussion it turns out that you can write a whole series of articles. It’s even good.
Reviewing and editing
When the writer hands you the draft, you should remember that even if it’s not the most priority task for you, the writer is waiting for feedback and cannot move the task further. So, don’t shelve it. It’s better to immediately schedule the time (an hour or two) to review the task while no one bothers you. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to check the materials.
- Read the text completely. This is the most frequent problem of reviewers that I encounter when one of the technical specialists is checking my article. They comment on the first paragraph listing everything they believe is missing, and then, somewhere in the middle or at the end of the text, they say: “Ah, here it is! Ignore my comment from above.” Text is not a code. Often the main idea can be in the last paragraph. Just accept the idea that you will have to read the article 2-3 times.
- Get back to the plan. It is time to remember what content you thought to put in the article from the very beginning, as well as its purpose, and target audience. Mark paragraphs with too much information (bulky explanation, obvious things, repetitions). Also, highlight the pieces where information is lacking. Specify exactly what is missing. This can be an example, context, explanation of a term/ process/ technology, etc.
- Look for logical errors, such as an omitted step in the instructions, incorrectly described process, wrong term, twisted cause-and-effect relationship, and so on. Remember, writers aren’t engineers or designers, and they don’t have the hands-on experience you do. So, briefly explain where exactly the problem is and how to fix it.
- Add examples from your experience. Please don’t use examples you have seen somewhere. It’s much better to say something that happened to you. These mini-stories are the insights that make the material unique and catchy.
- Write detailed feedback for the copywriter. Inform the writer that you have completed the review and explain how the material made you feel (more on that later).
How to write comments in the content writer’s text
If you are an engineer and have read at least one article on how to conduct a code review, then you already know the basic principles of commenting. However, if this practice is new to you, the following tips will greatly help both you and the writer you work with.
- Be as specific as possible. Explain what needs to be reworked and how. It’s crucial to ensure that your colleagues can immediately correct a piece instead of guessing whether they understood you correctly or not. Here are examples of bad comments: “Everything is wrong here”, “I would have said it differently”, “I don’t like it”, and “Something is wrong”.
- Be brief. Sometimes reviewers want to explain why the writer’s idea is incorrect, so they begin to explain technical details and almost the entire history of their professional development. This is all very interesting, of course, but your primary task is to give the writer the necessary information to correct the text. Nothing more.
- Forget about sarcasm. Even if certain things seem obvious to you, this is not always true for other people. Sarcasm is not an effective communication tool. It will only lead to misunderstandings or even conflicts. Perhaps right now, you want to add a caustic joke to the comment, but don’t be surprised if a colleague comes back to you with additional questions and clarifications again and again.
- Don’t repeat yourself. If you see that the same error repeats several times in the text, it’s better not to leave comments on each of them. Leave one comment and note that this point must be corrected throughout the text.
- Don’t rewrite the text from scratch. Sometimes reviewers try so hard that they rewrite every sentence, adding more and more comments. This way, you lose all the benefits from cooperation. If you don’t like the style and language of the copy and want to present everything under your own “sauce”, then think what would be better in terms of available resources: rewrite the text yourself, or discuss with a content writer what accents they should change/add to the text.
How to write feedback
When the review is completed, you need to send the material back to the writer to process your comments. You can text something like “I checked and left some comments” and that would work. But you can also send your detailed impression of the article to give the content writer better feedback about their work and help them grow. Here are the main tips on how to do that.
- Start with something good. This is a universal approach to writing feedback and applies to all specialists. This is how you put a person in a positive mood and keep their motivation at a high level.
- Describe the main points that need to be reworked. It is not necessary to list all the issues you commented on in the document, only the main ones.
- Suggest options for solutions. Again, don’t repeat everything you’ve already written in the comments, just the main ideas. Perhaps you know how to depict a difficult text in the form of an illustration or even a video. Or, maybe you remembered an apt example that would make the material even more interesting and easy to understand.
- Describe your expectations for further cooperation. It is very important to clarify your next steps. If you left many comments, ask the writer to send you the material for the second review after the rework. If you think that the main idea of the article was lost or blurred, it is worth setting a meeting to discuss everything again.
I want to emphasize that creating content (no matter if you do it on your own or in collaboration with someone) is an extremely useful and interesting activity. It allows you to share your own experience and knowledge with the world and develop in different directions. The only thing that matters is choosing topics that are really interesting for you, and then that passion will also come across to the reader in the form of an engaging and interesting piece of content.