Here’s what went wrong.
You started with a good idea.
Then you showed it to someone. She told you it needed something more. So you added it.
You sent it out for review. Your reviewers all suggested adding and changing things. They’re important and powerful people, so you did.
The technical people insisted you include a more detail explanation of something that wasn’t explained exactly right.
Legal said you needed to add some dodges and disclaimers.
Now your document looks like this:
The reader cannot figure out what you are saying, because what you are saying is hidden beneath a layer of incoherent revisions.
Whose fault is this?
How not to let this happen
This driver in the photo used to have a truck. Then he loaded everything he could find onto it. Now he is driving a cross between a hedgehog and a kindergarten classroom.
When you are writing a document, start with a clear idea of the desired readers, objective, action, and impression. And be careful what you load onto it.
When you get review comments back, ask these questions:
- Is adding this comment going to make the document clearer, or cloudier?
- What made the reviewer make this comment? Can I address it and maintain the clarity of the document?
- Are there several comments at odds with one another? Can I make a revision that addresses all of those concerns?
Smart writers use review comments as an opportunity to create new clarity in the document. The result remains their work, even as it addresses reviewers’ concerns.
Some people never learn
The Massachusetts State Police pulled over the truck in the picture above last Wednesday. A few days later, the police in Chicopee, Massachusetts, issued a citation to this vehicle:
Look familiar? It was the same truck, with the same driver. I’m guessing his driver’s license is in danger about now.
Please don’t let this be you.
Maintain control of your documents.
Don’t be a hazard to readers. Keep your load under control.