Why Word beats Google Docs for our writers and editors

July 19, 2021 10:15 pm

As a content marketing agency, our writers and editors spend a lot of time working in word processors. These tools have come a long way in the last few decades – I still remember the blue-screen days of WordPerfect 5.1 fondly.

Today, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to word processing apps. Some work better on larger screens, others on mobile devices. Microsoft Word and Google Docs are the most popular right now.

At Collective Content, we lean on Word rather than Docs. There are a few reasons for this, which we’ll get into in a moment.

But first a confession: Although we use Word out of necessity, I’m writing this first draft in Google Docs.

Google Docs is a wonderful thing. Like many, many Office users, I suffered many times when Word suddenly crashed and took my latest edits with it. Not having to save a Google Doc is a game changer.

I also need only about 5 per cent of the features Word offers and the Google Docs user interface is more streamlined. 

But once we have a first draft, we always revert to Word for the ‘serious’ business of editing, reviewing and iterating – both internally and with clients.

There are a few reasons for this.

Almost without exception, our clients use the Microsoft Office suite. A handful use Google Docs, but it’s sometimes the case that IT has blocked access to the Google Suite behind the company firewall.

While Word doesn’t have a lot of the cool, collaborative stuff that Docs offers, we’re confident that the client will be able to read it, review via tracked changes and send a new version back to us.

This leads us neatly on to the second reason.

I know Google Docs has version control – in many ways, more sophisticated than Word – but we don’t need that level of granular control over sentence changes over time. Certainly there are other use cases that do, but not for the creation of content marketing assets. We just need to track changes based on customer review stages.

Before we start writing an asset, we normally write an abstract. This document sets out the structure, as well as our understanding of it and the proposed angle. Once that’s approved, we start the writing.

We’re always happy to work with clients to get to the right place. That’s rarely on a version one. But by a version two or three, we’re normally most of the way there. Especially if we’ve nailed the abstract in the first place.

Having a version history with dozens of minor iterations of the document is overkill for us. Just a few are needed to have an audit trail we can use.

And finally, there’s a commercial reason. Sometimes a document will go beyond version three. In that scenario, we start to amend our prices based on the standard terms and conditions in our statements of work.

For that, we need accurate version control based on review rounds and, for that, Word is still best. We just need something as humble (or boring) as a new document with a new filename and a number – again, we can’t base that on dozens of versions in Google Docs with small iterations.

Every industry has an eccentricity. And while I love Google Docs and welcome our cloud-based, collaborative future, for the time being, Microsoft Word is here to stay.

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