Document Development

Most committees, subcommittees, and workgroups produce documents. Here are some ways of achieving a good final document that can be approved

Before you can begin, you need a mandate from someone that they want you to produce a document covering a specific topic. The simplest case is one person is delegated the task and does it to completion using their own resources (not covered here). More generally some colaboration is needed 

Getting started

  1. Brainstorm an outline of the document (if not provided).
  • For large documents, split it into sections and use the processes described here for each of the pieces.
  • Assign one person as the primary editor for this document
    • For large documents, the editor is more of a project manager who makes sure the pieces are done, look as if they were written by the same person, and have the same formatting. The last two items make the elements fit well together.
  • Agree on a collaboration mechanism with that editor (below)
  • Agree on an internal approval process to make changes
  • Brainstorming

    1. Done in a face-to-face meeting.
    2. Can be done via conference call with a Google Doc serving as a white board that all can see and modify.
    3. Separately compile lists and share with group, one person combines.
    4. Other tools (TBD)


    1. Produces a first draft, maybe little more than ordering the topics/sections from brainstorming
    2. Uses a template which must be followed (if no template, then make one)
    3. Controls the layout of the document
    4. May farm out parts to other group members

    Colaboration options include:

    1. Google document with everyone allowed to edit (preferred)
    2. Google document with only the editor allowed to edit
    3. Web pages 
    • Shared on website using check-in/check-out mechanism - can cause delays while waiting for others to clear the lock
  • Office document
    • shared by sending as email to group - no one know who has the latest copy and tends to create integration problems - inteferes with editor control.
    • transmit only snippets of changes to editor who makes the changes. (also for 2-3. above)

    Internal approval (Several approaches, depends on collaboration mechanism)

    1. Editor delegated task of making decisions (but must weigh alternate opinions)
    2. Editor (or anyone with document access) makes non-controversial changes such as typos and spelling errors.
    3. Controversial changes only happen at meetings, conference calls, or email votes.

    Google Doc/Word formating issues

    Both Google docs and Word files make low level layout decisions based on intenal profiles that control appearance of headings, lists, etc. Unfortunately this layout is determined by the creator of the first version and different people can have different templates making it hard to create corporate wide style guides. It is less likely for people to have different Google doc profiles, but if the doc was created by converting a Word document it inherits some, but not all, the Word preferences.

    In addition, neither show the codes used to control the formatting making it very hard for people to editor other peoples documents. For Google Doc, you can't tell whether people used spaces or tabs for indents, but for Word you can.  

    Font size and bolding of headers should be controled using H1-6 tags, not using font size or bold directly.