23 April 2020

The importance of reviewing content

Anyone who writes content, and let's face it that's everyone, knows the importance of reviewing it before publishing it. Do you agree? If you don't, think about the last time to read a tweet, Facebook post, or email from someone that didn't read right. Maybe the wording was confused, written quickly in the moment, and lacked clarity. Or maybe it contained typographical errors. Worse still, maybe it resulted in you understanding the content incorrectly or in a way the writer didn't intend. Take this tweet as an example:  
I'm sure we've all made similar mistakes. Time pressures and deadlines mean we cut corners. Whilst one line social media posts aren't in the same bracket as technical documentation for a REST API, we should always take care before publishing anything.

What Form Should a Review Take?


That depends. I've seen everything from a quick scan by a co-worker, to a rigid multi-stepped review by many parties. Take the following examples:
  • A financial institution dealing with credit and debit card payments, requires its members to review and sign off its documentation. There are multiple iterations of each deliverable, each of which has to be signed off by all members. It requires a high degree of engagement by all concerned.
  • Tom Johnson is a recent KnowledgeBase Ninjas Podcast mentioned his five step review process. Although less formalised than the financial institution, it covered everything from a review by Tom himself, to getting the Legal team involved.
  • A company with ISO-9001 accreditation, who has to prove a review was performed. They must also prove that any feedback received was actioned on as part of an ISO audit, thereby requiring a high degree of record keeping.

Review Tips


There is no exact science to reviewing content. It is more about what is required and works for you, but the following tips are well worth considering:
  • Don't rely on you reviewing your own content. The chances are you won't pay as much attention as someone else.
  • Get different people to review the content. Mix the skill sets to include subject matter experts, language experts, etc. 
  • Clearly define what each reviewer should be looking for (e.g. technical accuracy, readability, typographical errors). This helps speed up the review process by allowing the reviewer to concentrate on what they're good at.
  • Set aside time and space to perform a review. Preferably book a room, and only take with you what is required to reduce distractions.
  • Perform reviews when your brain is better at concentrating. Reviewing can be hard work, so don't do it after a long hard day.

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