Handout: Collaborating Effectively

Collaborative writing—people working together to write a document—is common in organizations.  In this class we will complete most of our assignments and documents collaboratively in order to practice working together.  In the workplace people collaborate at least some of the time in writing everything from memos to books.  This handout covers some of the most pertinent aspects of working collaboratively.  In putting it together, I referred to and condensed the chapter “Writing Collaboratively” in Mike Markel’s book Technical Communication (7th ed., Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2004).



Advantages of Collaboration


Writers who collaborate can expect to draw on the following advantages:



Disadvantages of Collaboration


Collaboration can also have the following important disadvantages:




Conducting Meetings


Collaboration involves conducting meetings.  The following discussion covers four aspects of meetings:


  1. Setting your group’s agenda

It’s important to get your group off to a smooth start.  In the first meeting, start to define your group’s agenda.  Use these guidelines:


  1. Conducting Efficient Face-to-Face Meetings

Consider the following aspects of communicating effectively face-to-face:

·        arrive on time

·        stick to the agenda

·        record the important decisions made at the meeting

·        summarize your accomplishments and make sure every member understands his or her assignment


  1. Communicate Diplomatically

Because collaborating on an important project is stressful, it can lead to interpersonal conflict.  Pay attention to the following aspects of communicating with each other:

·        listen to each other

·        let group members finish what they are trying to say

·        make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak

·        avoid personal insults

·        do not overstate your position

·        do not get emotionally attached to your own ideas

·        pay attention to non-verbal communication


  1. Critiquing a Group Member’s Draft

In collaboration, group members often critique drafts written by other group members.  Knowing how to do it without offending the writer is a valuable skill.  Here are some suggestions:

·        start with a positive comment

·        discuss the larger issues first

·        talk about the writing, not the writer

·        focus on the group’s document, not just the group member’s draft