Justification for editing dept.?

Subject: Justification for editing dept.?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Lisa Kemp'" <lnk -at- ONTARIO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 13:07:27 -0400

Lisa Kemp thinks her company <<...would benefit from a centralized Editing
Department... Does your company have such a department?>>

Yup, and you're looking at him. <g> Actually, I've worked in situations in
which the editors were wholly separate from the writers and (as now) where
I'm both separate from the writers (in my roles as editor and translator)
and one of them (when I produce online docs and user manuals). There are
advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, but the one thing that is
common to both is that you need someone capable of independently acting as
editor: my online help and user manuals aren't nearly as good as they'd be
if I had a second editor to review them for me. (As it is, the review is by
the developers and a few new users of the products I'm documenting.)

<<If so, maybe you could help me with the justification.>>

I've been editing for some 15 years now, and have learned one lesson very
well: no matter how good I've become as a writer (and based on the feedback
I receive, I consider myself a pretty good writer), I've _always_ benefited
from having a professional editor do the edit of my writing. (I've also
occasionally had problems introduced when I published material that I didn't
get to review after editing, but on the whole, the balance sheet is
overwhelmingly in favor of having a separate editor.) It's simple human
psychology: all the assumptions and background knowledge in my head that
shape what I write and how I write it are assumptions and background
knowledge that few (sometimes none) of my readers share. Whenever I rely on
those assumptions and background and guess wrong, I fail to communicate. The
only way to account for those failures to communicate? Get someone skilled
at identifying what I've left unsaid and fixing the problem (or asking me to
fix it) to review the work. That someone is an editor. Peer reviewers can do
much of this work, but often don't have enough training as editors to do
some important editorial tasks (consistency, grammar, etc.).

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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