Provide Document Feedback for Efficiency

(Featured image “Collaborative documentation editing” by 4nitsirk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

When providing document reviews with comments or track changes, most people start writing their comments as they read through. This is perfectly natural and recommended, as capturing your thoughts immediately is the best way to ensure they aren’t forgotten. That said…

As you read through the document, some of your comments made earlier may be addressed later in the document. If you think the content should be moved, this is a good time to point that out, referring back to your earlier comment. If not, take the time to move the comment to the appropriate point, or revise it accordingly.

Short-term memory varies between person to person and even context to context. A comment provide early in the doc is likely to be remembered and reference back when it discovered at the end that it was not necessary if the review is done in a single sitting or as part of a very focused project. Then again, someone stopping by to say “hi” or an IM popping up immediately after writing a comment can pop the memory out of the short term queue and only invoke vague familiarity if the concept is addressed later. Because of this unplanned and unschedulable variation in memory reliability, I suggest re-reading through all comments prior to submitting them. It will (hopefully) catch those forgotten inputs that should be revised in the context of the entire document so that the sent input is concise.

The value of concise input is two fold: It makes it easier for the person receiving the feedback to apply it where needed, and it avoids the frustration of seeing comments from a review that the author knows are not valid because they are addressed later on.

© Scott S. Nelson

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