Tips to Get Writers on the Same Page in a Shared Authoring Environment

So, you’ve implemented a component content management system and you’re on your way with topic-based writing and content reuse. But there are still a few writers who just can’t seem to follow the same writing style as everyone else. They always seem to do something differently, causing problems when other writers must reuse their content. Here are ways to get better cohesiveness between the writers:

Choose a style and stick with it.

Train the writing team to follow a specific set of writing guidelines. Create a style guide or use an existing standard writing style for consistent authoring. Make sure the style guidelines are published and easily accessible to all writers when they need it to complete their assignments.

Enforce structure using templates.

Develop writing templates that guide writers toward a specific structure. Templates can ensure that all writers are including all necessary components, in the correct order.

Use validation and vocabularies to control content.

Wording choices can also be controlled using the content management system. For components in which the content must be consistent, create a list of values that the authors must choose from to control its accuracy. If there are specific words that should never (or should always) be used, implement a dictionary of those terms in the content management system. For example, if “PC” and “Mac” are restricted terms, the content management system can enforce that writers use the term “computer” instead.

Automate everything you can.

Use the automation features within the content management system to ensure that certain things happen correctly. For example, automatically populate attributes on new components with designated values, or recalculate numerical values on components when a certain value changes. Automation eliminates human error and forgetfulness.

Train, train, train.

Never underestimate the value of training for the staff. Deliver initial training to guide them on the new procedures, and follow up with ongoing training to refresh and update skills. Sometimes a simple reminder is all it takes to get a stray writer back on the right track.

Monitor the progress.

Review the writers’ work to make sure they are following the proper guidelines and procedures. Catching and flagging inconsistent performance will prevent future problems.

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