Agile Thinking

Pair Writing: The Benefits of Working with a Partner

Not to be confused with pair programming, Tom Breur and Michael Mahlberg advocate the use of pair writing in an article for AgileConnection. Just as two heads can sometimes be better than one in smart programming, the same can be said for writing. They explain how pair writing works for them.

Double the Fun

Granted, trying to shove more than one person together into the review process could result in some Three Stooges Syndrome, and Breur and Mahlberg readily admit that their increases in productivity can only be perceived subjectively. Nevertheless, they have derived some practices that make pair writing a viable use of time. For instance, they stick to a regular schedule for writing sessions, as the power of routine can never be underestimated. They review and comment positively on each other’s work; if one person does not understand what the other is trying to say, it becomes a challenge for the other person to articulate himself better. Often, if a new concept is inserted into writing but not expounded upon, it becomes a good idea to excise that information and instead make it the focus of a new future piece of writing.

Breur and Mahlberg hypothesize that introverts and extroverts would do especially well to pair together in such activities. Ultimately, they think any two people might stand to benefit from the experience though. They go on to say:

Although it may help to reflect with a knowledgeable colleague, his or her expertise isn’t all that crucial. If you can’t write in a way that your grandmother would understand, then maybe you can improve your message by explaining it in simpler and more tangible terms to a nonexpert peer. Sometimes your partner just needs to encourage you: “This has a lot of potential!” Sometimes he needs to quiz you: “What did you mean by that paragraph?” And sometimes he provides a valuable outsider’s perspective: “It makes sense to cut that part into two sections.”

Pair writing could very likely require a new way of approaching work, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Think it over. You can read the original article here: http://www.agileconnection.com/article/pair-writing-benefits-working-partner

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