Developing website content writing tools for large rewrite projects

Give writers what they need to do their job well

  • By Kathy Wagner
  • |
  • Aug 21 2019
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  • Categories: Articles

Nobody can do their job without support. When multiple writers try to rewrite content to a single set of new standards, they will need a lot of support!

What are writing support tools

We consider technology-based content systems to be included in the process and workflow, so here we’ll consider other tools that help writers to create better content more quickly. Ideally, these will be online and easily accessible through a shared platform.

Some common writing support tools include:

  • Writing style guides and standards
  • Writing style sheet (to track suggested additions and changes to style guide)
  • Decision trees
  • Process diagrams and RACI charts (these come out of the process and workflow activities)
  • Content models and CMS templates with guidelines
  • Content assignment and tracking sheets (if not automated through workflow technology)
  • Training guides

What writing support tools help with

There’s an incredible number of tiny decisions that need to constantly be made when rewriting content. Using shared support tools makes it easier for people on a writing team to make these decisions more quickly and consistently, which results in better content in less time. Support tools also provide training and guidance to new writing team members, helping them to be more productive more quickly.

Providing support tools for writers is always important. The trick is to provide a useful and usable suite of support tools for the team and project at hand.

The most critical tools to provide for information-rich site content rewrites are:

  • Writing style guide
  • Writing style sheet
  • Content models or CMS templates with guidelines
  • Content assignment and tracking sheets (if not automated through workflow technology)

Other tools may be more or less important, depending on project and team needs.

Limitations and risks associated with developing writing support tools

The biggest risks are that the tools you create for writers are not in a usable format or have too much or too little detail to be useful to the writers.

All support tools should be centrally located online, and style guides should make it easy for writers to find information by searching or browsing.

Style sheets need to be editable by all writers, so Google docs or other shared authoring tools work well.

Content models are only useful when the writers are not able to author within a CMS that provides templates to communicate structural requirements and constraints.

Writers are like everyone else: if a tool is not helpful and easy to use, they won’t use it. Invest the time to make sure the support tool suite meets writers’ needs. Taking time during the first training week together to collaboratively review and revise these tools is a good way to get writers’ input and acceptance.

How to design and develop writing support tools

To design and develop an effective writing support toolkit, follow these steps:

1. Gather your current in-house tools and do a quick audit. Answer these questions:

  • What do you have?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What’s most useful in this context?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the tools?
  • How much time and cost will it take to adapt them to this project’s needs?

2. If there are critical gaps, inconsistencies, or poor quality in your current tools, assign a person (and possibly one or more to support them) to lead a project to improve the suite of tools to meet this project’s needs.

3. Design and develop the tools that you believe will be most useful to your writing team, in a format that will be the most usable.

4. When your writing team is in place, review and revise these tools in collaboration with the writing team.

5. Task your managing editor with ensuring the tools get used and updated throughout the project.

Depending on the breadth and quality of your current suite of content support tools, creating this project-specific toolkit will take more or less effort.

Most companies can use an in-house resource to collect and audit their current toolkit. If it will take substantial effort to build a useful, usable website content writing tools for your rewrite project, you may require additional help. If you don’t have the time or skill set in-house, then you can subcontract a content strategist, senior writer, or assign the task to the managing editor of the writing team.

To effectively rewrite a substantial amount of content: