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How content designers and policy experts can work together to create content for GOV.WALES.

First published:
22 September 2021
Last updated:

Pair writing is when policy experts and content designers work together to write a piece of content. It can reduce time spent going back and forth, and make sign-off quicker and easier.

Pair writing is not appropriate for all content. It is useful to help early discussions and to make sure everybody’s working towards the same aim.

Who’s involved

You should only have 2 people in a pair writing session. A content designer and a policy expert. This helps keep the flow of the writing session.

Make sure that the policy expert is somebody who has the knowledge and authority to approve the content.

What we need to do

You should have a brief conversation to discuss what content is needed. Be clear on what the aim of the content is, what the user needs are, and when it’s needed.


You should have a conversation before meeting to pair write to make sure you both agree on how it’s going to work.

You should agree user needs and acceptance criteria at this point.

User needs follow this template:

As a… [who is the user?]
I need to… [what does the user want to do?]
So that… [why does the user want to do this?]

Acceptance criteria is a list of what needs to be done for the user need to be met.

Agree how, when and where you are going to meet, and what the expectations are.

The pair writing session

During the session one person will be typing, whilst the other asks questions and prompts. You will both take turns to type. You should swap roles every 15 minutes or so, and keep the session to no more than an hour.

Keep coming back to the user need and acceptance criteria.

Possible prompts:

  • what do you mean by that?
  • do people understand that word?
  • do you think your audience will understand…
  • don’t worry too much about the detail at this stage, chuck it all on the page, then we’ll edit it
  • we can correct grammar later, let’s get those points down
  • just put that as a note to remember
  • I’ll just jot that down… what did you say again?
  • if you have something to suggest: ‘would x work here?
  • maybe we might need to explain this word

It is important to get all the facts down at this point. The formatting and layout of the content can be edited later.

Finalising the content

The content designer will then edit the content, decide on a content type and finalise the formatting.

The content should then be sent back to the policy expert for a final fact check before translating and publishing to GOV.WALES.