There are three major categories to consider when a colleague asks you to review their work: content, organization, and presentation. Although there are many, many subcategories, the following is a roadmap on how you might begin.
Why bother? In business, effective communication may mean the difference between a sale or a sale gone cold; a meeting or a meeting on hold; reinforcing your reputation or calling in for reinforcements. I am an editor, so it may be self-serving to make the following statement, but it applies equally to everyone: Everybody needs an editor.*
Even good writers need an editor. And what better way to see something through someone else’s eyes, than to ask someone else to eyeball their work?
Most of us have strengths in one or more of these three main categories. For example, you may be an expert on a particular subject and be asked to review the content only. Or, perhaps you have a background in journalism and can help with grammar and sentence structure. If you’re the one asking for help, communicate which area you want them to pay particular attention to, based on their expertise. In either case, I've provided a few questions to consider when asking for help, or when asked to edit for someone else:
Questions to Consider
Is it accurate? Are citations required? Is it fact, opinion, or inconclusive? Is it clear which is which? Is it grammatically correct? Does it follow your organization’s style guide for word usage? Does it target the right audience in tone and substance?
Is the material presented in a logical order? Is it easy to follow? Can it be referenced, or hyperlinked? Do the links work? Does it get to the point? Is the conclusion evident? Is there a call for action, and is it plain to see?
Is it easy to read? How does it look in print, online, or in the PDF? Should the text be broken up? Can subheads, tables, charts, or graphics help improve readability? Do you need a table of contents? Is there consistency in the layout? Does it match your organization’s branding?
Yes, we can all use an editor. So whether you are asked by a colleague, or you reach out for someone to review your work, pay particular attention to one or more of the above categories. And, one more thing. Listen. Check your ego at the door, and become available for the critique you’ve sought.
*Yes, of course, this piece has been edited.