Too Many Cooks Spoil the Stew

It’s an old saying, but it’s appropriate for this time of year and for some projects I come across. If the stew has been put together by the cook and is bubbling away on the stovetop, it’s tempting for those who walk by to add a pinch of this or that. The stew might benefit from the additions, but more likely, you’ll end up with a strange-flavored meal.

It’s the same with writing, of course. Writers work hard to create pieces that have a logical progression from beginning to end. Drafts can certainly be improved on, but you need to be wary of changing the underlying structure. Once you do that, you usually end up with a mess.

Likewise, when a group of people all comment on a piece, it’s not likely to come out better at the end. Writing by committee, just like rule by committee, is a bad idea. (I live in a town run by a group of selectman, so I can attest to this.) It also lengthens the time it takes to produce the piece.

If you want to maintain the integrity of a white paper, article, or blog post, carefully consider who will review it. Ideally, one person should read the drafts and make changes (the content owner). If it must go to a second or third reviewer, those changes should be submitted to the content owner. If reviewers are throwing in ideas that don’t work with the original recipe, the content owner can keep the project moving by rejecting them before the writer spends time trying to incorporate them.

If you’re on the reviewing end, be aware of the types of changes you’re making. You want your content to tell a compelling story, so stay away from heavy-handed additions of jargon or product details. Be gentle with the delete key as well—with so much content out there, remember that plain vanilla prose won’t stimulate your intended audience’s appetite for what you have to say.

—Jill Rose

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