How to work with writers

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
Picture of Matthew Stibbe
on 27 February 2006
How to write

Writers are peculiar creatures with special care and feeding requirements. Being a writer myself and working with writers at my marketing agency, Articulate Marketing, I thought it would be useful to post the advice I wrote for the company website here. I hope this will help people get the best work from the writers they deal with.


  • Look for writers with a track record of work in a similar format or subject but don't get hung up if they haven't done exactly the same thing elsewhere. A good writer should be able to research new topics effectively.
  • Meet the writer (not just the account manager) and make sure there's a good 'chemistry.' Do they talk your language? Understand your requirements? Give constructive input about ways they might carry out your brief?
  • Look for a chameleon-like ability to write in different styles. A good writer should be able to follow a corporate style guide and adapt their work to the audience and client.
  • Ask for references.
  • Check that your writer has professional indemnity insurance.


  • A briefing document should explain who the work is for (the target audience), what its objectives are (why is it being written), what style guidelines and language will be used (for instance American English or British English), the length in words, what the deadline is, a high level outline of the contents and any supplementary contact information or additional resources the writer may need.
  • You can reasonably expect a good writer to help with this process, even draft a briefing document for you based on your instructions.

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  • Like most people, writers like to get positive feedback. If they've done a good job, tell them.
  • When it comes to fact-checking, you should expect a writer to keep meticulous notes and voice recordings of any interviews they carry out.
  • Similarly, they should be able to provide independent sources for any facts and statistics that they use in their work.
  • Like anyone in business, writers will try to schedule their work. Last minute requests and short deadlines are okay (sometimes) but you are more likely to get a good job if you allow a reasonable deadline.
  • Writers tend to think in terms of deadlines, drafts and word counts and chunk up their time in units of interviews, research, writing and editing. Understanding a little about how they work will help you understand what progress they are making

Editing and rewriting

  • You may find writers reluctant to release work until it has reached a final draft form. At Articulate, work goes through a fact-checking and proof-reading stage before being released to clients.
  • You should expect to receive work that is spelled correctly, grammatical and that makes sense. It should, naturally, meet the brief.
  • It's normal for the client to review the work from their company's perspective to check, for example, that trademarks are properly written out or that job titles are correct. Minor tweaks like this are normal, especially when you start working with a new writer.
  • In our experience, most major rework arises from a faulty brief or one that changes during the assignment.
  • That said, you shouldn't have to deal with a writer's ego. If the work doesn't do what you expected, explain why not and request changes. The more specific you are the more likely you are to get a satisfactory result.
  • In our view, unpardonable sins include: missing a deadline, starting work without an agreed brief, clichés and making the same mistake twice.

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See also: marketing agency

Related service: Content