Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with marbles, or some such thing)

Subject: Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with marbles, or some such thing)
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 13:42:32 -0700 (PDT)


--- Doug Grossman <Doug -dot- Grossman -at- sas -dot- com> wrote:

> 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.

I don't think editors are all font fondlers. Font fondling is a sickness that
infects lots of people - writers and non-writers. Its basically the same sickness
that infects anybody who wants to divert themselves away from the real task or
job they should be doing into something that is easier and more entertaining. But
unlike a chronic procrastinator who always finds lame excuses for not doing their
work - font fondlers fundamentally believe they are adding value to their work
because they are "taking the time to really understand the audience's needs."

> My question is this: Would you change all, some, or none of what you said, if
> one called themselves a technical *editor," as opposed to a technical *writer*?
> My question arises from the fact that they can both exist within the same
> organization, and that there is a distinct difference between them.

I think the honorable Jason Willebeek-LeMair explained this best in his post.
There are varying levels of editing & writing.

My main point is that there is a difference between editing and writing. They are
not the same kind of task. But many people who call themselves "writers" are in
reality just doing a lot of editing.

I see this as a layered capability issue. Think of the following chart as
"degrees of capability" the higher the number, the greater capability:

1. Basic grammatical editing. (Copy Editor)
2. Layout, design, fonts, etc. (Desktop publisher)
3. Organizational editing and management including single-sourcing.
(Documentation Specialist)
4. Content editing and light generation (Editor)
5. Technical editing and heavy content generation. (Technical Editor)
6. Author or Co-author (Technical Writer)

Generally, the lower you go down the list, the more skills you must have. And
generally, people lower on the list can do the job of somebody higher on the list
with a reasonable degree of proficiency.

There is, of course, room for specialization and exception, but this layering is
how I would interpret the "communications professions."

Most "technical writers" are in the 2 - 4 range. That is they mostly spend their
time reorganizing, editing, and managing other people's work.

Exceptionally good writers live in the 5 - 6 range. They author new work or
substantially re-engineer other people's work.

Andrew Plato

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References:
Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with marbles, or some such thing): From: Doug Grossman

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