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A Better Approach to Group Editing

If your job involves writing, editing, reviewing, or approving documents, you’re probably very familiar with the painful process of group editing — when a large committee attempts to edit a single communication simultaneously. Acting with the noblest of intentions, the participants in a group edit — writers, editors, project managers, subject matter experts, and executives — traditionally use the “Track Changes” tool in Microsoft Word, often producing a document so bloodied with cross-outs, critiques, and new copy that it’s not only unrecognisable from the original draft, but virtually unreadable.

As one of my dog-loving colleagues likes to say, “Everybody has to pee on it.”

Track Changes and similar group-editing programs have revolutionised the editing process, and we should be thankful for those advances. But these programs don’t begin to address the dark side of group edits: rounds and rounds of disagreement, competing levels of expertise and authority, and excessive nitpicking that leave project managers ready to approve anything so long as it successfully moves the document out of review.