Collaborating with a group can be an excellent way to break down a huge project into manageable pieces. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, it can result in a finished project that looks downright schizophrenic.
Don’t risk the team’s reputation by turning in something that appears to have been thrown together at the last minute. Instead, a few days before the finished project is due, gather everyone’s components, and select a nitpicker to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Look for nonalignment in:
- Facts. First and foremost, make sure that everyone’s research agrees. On many topics “experts” disagree, but your project shouldn’t contradict itself. Example: If one section of the group’s proposal says that tires should be rotated “every 5,000 miles” while another section says “every 5,000 to 10,000 miles,” you’re sending a mixed message. Choose one and stick with it throughout the entire proposal.
- Vocabulary. Similarly, variations in terms can be distracting or confusing for your audience. For example, if the majority of a presentation refers to “teenagers” and one person’s section refers to “young adults,” your audience might wonder if you’re talking about a different group in that section.
- Style. Search for any jarring shifts in voice or tone. Consider whether these things are consistent throughout:
- Point of view. Example: “We have always thought …” vs. “You might think …” vs. “One might think …”
- Humor. For example, does one person’s component include a bunch of puns while the rest of the project is totally serious?
- Word choice. In addition to consistency of terms, as described above, make sure each section reflects the same style of word choice as well. Example: Look for sections that are heavy on jargon, or slang that doesn’t flow well with the rest of the project’s language.
- Formatting. Whether your project is on paper or PowerPoint, inconsistencies instantly will draw the attention of your audience. Make sure all sections use the same font, margins, colors, image-style (e.g. photographs vs. illustrations) and bullet style. Additionally, for PowerPoint presentations, standardize the theme (i.e. the background), slide layout, transitions, sound effects and animation.
- Punctuation. Some might find this unnecessarily nitpicky, but attention to the smallest details—the punctuation marks—can mean the difference between an adequate and a very polished project. Keep an eye out for punctuation issues with more than one accepted rule, such as Oxford comma usage (i.e. the optional comma before a conjunction in a sentence like “They bought furniture, rugs, and lamps.”).
Does your team rely on a style guide?