Technical editing vs. technical writing?

Subject: Technical editing vs. technical writing?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 14:40:30 -0400


Doug Grossman reports: <<In my company, we have a separate "Technical
Editing" department, separate from both "Publications" (who document our
core software products in a static way for external folks) and from the
technical writers in "Client Services" (who document customized solutions in
a dynamic sort of way for external customers). I happen to be in this last
group. My guess would be that the technical editors fondle fonts the most,
"pubs" probably hardly at all, and my group is somewhere in the middle.>>

You're joking, right? Why are your editors wasting their time "fondling
fonts"? (I assume a euphemism for playing with layouts.)

<<My question arises from the fact that they can both exist within the same
organization, and that there is a distinct difference between them.>>

Darn tootin' they can coexist. I wear both hats, but never do I make the
mistake of believing that I can edit my own writing as well as someone else.
Most places that think quality is important hire separate editors to help
the writers produce the best work they can produce. While peer review is
certainly well worth the time, it's no substitute for a trained editor--no
more than a typical engineer or programmer should be considered a substitute
for a trained writer. The occasional individual can do a really good job at
both, and can certainly rise above the level of a poor editor or writer, but
few indeed can rise to the standards of a true pro.

You quoted Andrew Plato as saying: <<If you want ownership of your work, you
have to have ownership of the knowledge.
Otherwise, you're just editing other people's text, and that isn't
writing.>>

Yup. Content creation and revision are two entirely different tasks, whether
they're done by a single person or two different professionals. But to pick
a nit, editing isn't writing... it's _re_writing. Sometimes extensively
enough that we editors should get coauthor status. I could tell you
stories...

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/usersadvocate.html
"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can
think."--Edwin Schlossberg, designer (1945- )


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