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clear communication: responsibilities of writers, editors and decision makers

(A similar topic is discussed in French in the article COMMUNICATION CLAIRE : RESPONSABILITÉS DES RÉDACTEURS, RÉVISEURS ET DÉCIDEURS.) 

Although writers, editors and decision makers have different responsibilities in the writing process, all three groups work toward a common goal: creating a communication product that is clear and effective.

Before writing or editing, writers, editors and decision makers must understand the following:

  • their responsibilities in the writing process;
  • the purpose of the text (inform, raise awareness, persuade, etc.);
  • the abilities, interests and needs of the target readers;
  • the rules of grammar and writing techniques; and
  • the principles of clear and effective communication.

The following sections explain the responsibilities of the three main groups of people involved in the writing process.

Writers

Writers are responsible for producing a text that is clear and effective. To do so, they must do the following:

  • Know the steps of the writing process:
    1. Analyze: analyze your target audience; determine the objective of your communication; understand the topic;
    2. Plan: make a plan; organize the information logically;
    3. Write and revise: write the text according to the principles of clear and effective communication; reread and revise your text;
    4. Evaluate: evaluate readers’ understanding of the text.
  • Prepare a reader profile (age, level of education, occupation, cultural attributes, etc.)
  • Know what they want to say before they start to write. When writing on behalf of a group, writers should consult everyone involved in the writing process before they start to write. That way they can make sure everyone agrees on the purpose of the text and the medium.
  • Put the readers first: consider their points of view and avoid administrative jargon.
  • Be open to constructive criticism from editors and decision makers.

Editors

The group of editors includes

  1. those who comment on the text—subject experts, project managers and partners;
  2. those who ensure the linguistic quality of the text—professional editors.

To do so, they must

  • strike a balance between the readers’ needs and those of the organization;
  • reread the text, line by line and as a whole, so as to check the quality of the writing (vocabulary, tone, coherence, relevance, etc.);
  • ensure that the layout respects the principles of clear and effective communication;
  • make only those changes that are necessary to improve the quality of the text; limit the number of stylistic changes and changes based on personal preference; and
  • discuss proposed changes with the writers.

Decision makers

The group of decision makers includes the person who requests the communication product and people at all management levels. Decision makers are responsible for ensuring that the communication product is clear and effective and that the goal can be achieved. To do so, they must do the following:

  • Discuss the following issues with the writers and editors to establish a clear vision and mandate:
    • what the key message is and how to communicate it to the readers;
    • which format and medium will best achieve the goal; and
    • whether they can meet the deadline.
  • Make only those changes that are necessary to improve the quality of the text; limit the number of stylistic changes and changes based on personal preference.
  • Discuss the proposed changes with the writers and editors.