RE: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with ma rbles, or some such thing)

Subject: RE: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with ma rbles, or some such thing)
From: Jason Willebeek-LeMair <jlemair -at- cisco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 13:55:26 -0500

Interesting thought from Doug:

"Would you change all, some, or none of what you said, if one called
themselves a technical *editor," as opposed to a technical writer*?"

(This was in regards to font frolicking vs content coagulation.)

I think this is where we start getting into the levels of edit.

Here is what I (personal opinion warning) like to see from a technical edit:

1. Grammar/vocabulary/punctuation, etc. edits. You know, the mechanics.

2. Content edits. Making sure that when I use widget on page three, I do
not call it a thingamabob on page 23. Making sure that after I fall asleep
in my cubicle I pick up my thoughts and continue to travel in the same
direction. Making sure that I do not refer to IP as a group of magical
creatures that cause spam to appear in my inbox.

For this part, I want a TECHNICAL technical editor. One who is cabable of
using the technology, or at least understanding it. (I have horror stories
of helpful non-technical technical editors completely hosing information
then dismissing it with a "Well, I am more of a word person" Fine for #1
above. Not fine for #2, becuse the non-technical editor would have no idea
if thingamabob and widget referred to the same or to different things).

3. Production Edits. This is the font fondling, table tweaking, two-page
spread spreading, widow and orphan consoling, space spacing, etc.

This can be done by the Technical Editor, or it can be done by the
Production Editor. I have worked in places where both types of editors were

I feel the need for a matrix:

Technical Production
Writer Editor Editor Editor
Content |
Creation |
Language |
Mechanics |
Content |
Edits |
Edits |
(Please imagine the rest of the lines in the matrix)

Anyway, every organization is different. In some, one person performs all
tasks. In others, the tasks are broken out by role, sometimes with the roles
combined, such as a writer doing the content creation and production work,
while the editor does the language and content edits.

So, it depends. Can a technical editor be less technical than the writer?
Sure, but in that case, it would fall back on the writer to do the content

In my fantasy pubs group that would not be the case. The editor would be the
smartest person in the group, know everything, and treat the writer like a
puppy, dispensing cookies and belly rubs at random. Hey, this is my fantasy.
You don't like it, get your own.


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