Pair writing – why two writers can be better than one

Taking its lead from the world of agile development, pair writing is helping copywriters provide content that offers insight and readability.

 Pair writing – why two writers can be better than one

Most writers work solo, but sometimes it pays to bring in another voice when drafting a piece, especially on subjects like medicine, finance and technology.

How often in any industry is one product created by a single person? Pretty much never. From art to manufacturing, there is nearly always a team of experts providing unique and vital cogs in the machine. So why should content creation be different?

What is pair writing?

Pair writing brings together one copywriter and one subject matter expert. One is the ‘driver’, writing down the ideas or typing up the content. The other is the ‘navigator’, who not only asks questions and makes suggestions, but also watches and learns.

The roles swap over midway through content creation, so both people get to produce and comment. They can also share their output with a wider group to get broader feedback. It’s highly collaborative, but far from being ‘content by committee’. Everyone has an equal stake in the content and any disagreements are ironed out in real-time.

Pioneered in Norway by Netlife Research, the pair writing technique is based on agile pair programming, where two programmers work on one project at one work station. 

Why is pair writing useful?

Both halves of the pair have to be clear on what the content is going to be about and what the end users’ needs are – before they start writing. This can save huge headaches further down the line.

They each end up with a mutual understanding of the concepts and outcomes – both from a technical point of view and an end user's point of view. It’s a great way to bring your content team up to speed quickly on a topic and for the client or expert to see what your team brings to the table.

It can also speed up the publishing process, as you’ll have an expert guiding you through compliance issues throughout, thus helping you avoid the dreaded Frankencontent.

What the expert brings

Authenticity
Experts can provide authenticity, credibility and assurance to readers that whatever the subject is, the content is solid. It’s clear that the content producers have done their research, know the market and are offering a view that is reliable.

Insight
Having an expert on hand during the writing process brings fresh ideas and a different point of view. With hundreds of blog posts and articles on similar subjects, having a unique angle based on true market insight helps your piece stand out and proves to your readers that you are a trustworthy source.

Feedback
An industry expert can offer quick and insightful feedback along the way, making sure your final piece is in the best shape possible. With a subject matter expert involved from the start, the feedback tends to focus more on the user’s needs and less on picking up grammatical mistakes.

What the content person brings

Clean and readable copy
Your expert might know everything there is to know about how cloud computing can boost the aviation industry, but they aren’t experts in content – the copywriters are. An expert might think they can write the article themselves, only to deliver huge chunks of dense text that will never be read by an online audience.

By working together, you can make sure this never happens, instead providing clean and readable copy that’s optimised for your audience and channels. Your expert will gain a better understanding of how to write for the web and in future it will be easier and faster to work with them.

Translating the jargon
Experts are great at what they do – they’ve spent years learning about their subject and working in their industry. However, this in-depth knowledge tends to bring with it the dreaded jargon. A content professional can transform technical terms, industry shorthand and abbreviations into easily readable copy that the audience will understand.

Tone of voice
If a company has a number of specialists writing in different areas, the tone of voice can be diluted, confused or lost altogether. By working with a content professional, you can make sure that any content produced fits in with the overall tone of voice, so that no matter where on the site someone lands, they’ll find the same consistent, instantly recognisable tone.