February Writers’ Forum Topic
What was your most recent team-writing project? What was the biggest stumbling block your team encountered? How did you solve it?
This one got a huge response! Apparently, as difficult as it may seem to write something on your own, it’s even more difficult to write in a group. British car designer Sir Alec Issigonis is credited with saying, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” Granted, it is difficult to get a group of people to agree on anything, but many of our readers have found ways to handle group writing.
Marie Delgado of Silver Spring, Maryland, recalls the time she and three colleagues were asked to write up a job description for a new support position in their temp agency’s office:
“We couldn’t agree on some of the duties the new person would assume—everyone wanted to shift responsibilities from his or her position! We finally solved the problem by having each member of the committee list the areas that they thought needed the most attention. Any area listed by more than one person was selected.”
Param Singh, of Toledo, Ohio, admits that writing in a group can be difficult, but finds that the biggest problem is scheduling:
“It was difficult to find a time we could all work together—two of us worked outside the main office, and the other two worked on different shifts. We finally went the electronic route. Using email, we collaborated round-robin style. One person came up with the main points, and emailed them to the next person, who added to or questioned the points. Then it went to the next person, and so on. The report took a little longer than we would have liked, but it got done, and we all agreed on the final product. I don’t recommend this method if you are on a tight deadline, though.”
Finally, JoAnn Taylor, who manages a small theater in Chicago, suggested having each person do one job.
“We had to write up a grant proposal for a children’s program. We decided to work on it one at a time. First everyone submitted his or her idea to the designated main content writer, who wrote out the whole thing narrative style. The next person took those ideas and fit them into the format required by the granting foundation and passed it on to the third person, who corrected the grammar and tightened up the writing. The last person checked everything over for spelling and punctuation errors. Voila! We got the grant! We found it helped to have each person focus on only one aspect of the piece.
So there you have three different ways to approach team writing. Try one or all of these ideas next time you have to “design a horse by committee”!