The Care and Feeding of Co-authors

10803691685_4404b76801_nThis post originally appeared on

As Chris Uggen pointed out on the Twitters, it’s easy to disappoint your coworkers. Whether it’s producing actual Swedish Fish when a candy-mergency arises in a late-night writing session or dropping the ball when it’s your turn to write the lit review, there are just so many opportunities to co-write badly. Here’s my very quick editorial advice should you decide to undertake a co-authored project:

  1. Be sure everyone really has the time and inclination.
  2. Set intentions about who will do what—particularly who will take care of the final read and smoothing of the paper. One author needs to take charge of smoothing over the seams and making it an easy read that doesn’t feel like three separate papers fighting for control. Ask an RA to take over getting the bibliography right and consistent to avoid tedium and scrappy references.
  3. Stop worrying about author order.
  4. Have skype, phone, or in-person meetings regularly and write up a quick summary to share with the group right afterward. Be sure that you’re all on the same page (and in the same journal).
  5. Enjoy the MadLibs fun times that will occur when you let others bring in their own tangents, their own random inspirations, and their own misfit sentences that can be plugged into the article at will. Helping form ideas into real through-lines is fun work and a productive process, whether it ever results in an article or project at all.

About Letta Page

Founding Associate Editor and Producer (Former) The Society Pages Senior Managing Editor Contexts Magazine In Twitter terms, I self-present as a disarmingly earnest editor, translator of academia, portmanteuse, and domesticated roustabout. More professionally, I might say: I am a jargon-slayer for hire. The founding associate editor and producer of The Society Pages and current senior managing editor of Contexts magazine (the public outreach journal of the American Sociological Association), I have nearly two decades' experience in academic editing across a range of disciplines. I've edited and written copy for publications from Oxford University Press, Routledge, Taylor & Francis, W.W. Norton, the University of Chicago Press, Cambridge University Press, and many others, along with dozens of journals. As a sort of fun "palate cleanser" (trust me, when you're editing books on neoliberalism and genocide, always good to have a fallback), I write copy for organizations like Stand Up! Records and I teach cardio barre fitness classes at Six Degrees Uptown. I also have a background in the visual arts and was a founder of First Amendment Arts (now CoExhibitions) in Minneapolis, MN. I hold degrees in history and classical studies from Boston University and an art degree from the University of Minnesota. Click here to read my Friday Roundup posts on The Editors' Desk. Click here to read my contributions to Citings & Sightings.