Here at the Factory, we’re blessed with several long-term clients for whom we write regularly, like trade publisher Hanley Wood Business Media, and various departments, schools and centers at UNC. Since we’re a team, any one of us may be called on to create content for these folks at any time without missing a beat.

When I first started this venture, that was a challenge. I had 10 interns, about half of whom were writers, and struggled to figure out how to convey content standards in a more efficient way than going over my edits with them. That was helpful, to be sure, but a more concrete approach was going to get better results faster. A lot of my colleagues and clients suffered from the same problem, so I decided I would try to figure it out.

You don't have to fish around for a definition of "good writing".

The result is Gold Standards, a set of traits that define good writing. And it can be applied in a couple different ways. Here at the Factory, we work with our clients to develop a list of criteria that meet their needs. Here’s an example from one of the Hanley Wood titles: Gold Standards for SpadeWork.

You’ll notice we got pretty explicit, including examples, so the document can stand on its own. This isn’t rocket science. It’s just good process. Now, whenever we get an assignment for this feature, we review the criteria and start working. Periodically, we review the criteria with clients to make sure we’re still meeting their standards.

We also now work with clients to help them develop Gold Standards for their own use. In some cases, we keep it very 30,000-feet, determining criteria of good writing overall. In other cases, we’ve developed Gold Standards for certain types of writing. Either way, the process created a shared vocabulary for talking about writing, with examples to cut down on haggling, and makes the entire process of producing high-quality copy smoother and more efficient.

We provide Gold Standard consulting primarily through this workshop:

THE GOLD STANDARD: Creating a Common Language of Quality. It’s tough to reach a goal when no one knows what it is. And when it comes to reaching the goal of improving our prose, few things seem more elusive. Answering the simple question, “What is good writing?” turns out to be anything but simple. And yet, having an answer is essential if teams of people want to work together without editing each other’s feelings. How do we come up with language we can all agree on and understand? Where do we get models of good work we can use to anchor our assessments and monitor quality as we move forward? And how do we do all this without starting a civil war over style? This workshop, designed for functional or multidisciplinary teams, helps groups determine their own “gold standard” for good writing and offers strategies for using those standards in the real world.

We’d love to work with you to develop your own set of Gold Standards! Learn more about our trainings and workshops here.