Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with marbles, or so...

Subject: Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing (was: playing with marbles, or so...
From: Tkritr -at- aol -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 03:16:45 EDT

The following is a bit of technical editing information that I picked up from
one of my tech comm grad school classes (just think, you get it for free,
while I'm still paying for it):

Roger E. Masse's "Theory and Practice of Editing Processes in Technical
Communication" for IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (VOL. PC
28, NO. 1, March 1985, pp. 34-42) includes information that I've used for a
better understanding of editing. It also raises the perception of editing
from the level of simply "font fondling".

Basically, he describes seven different levels of editing: Content,
Structure, Style, Format, Mechanics, Tone, and Policy. These aren't listed in
any specific order, and an editor can do one, some, or all of these types of

In Andrew's "degrees of capability" *(DoC) list, he addresses Mechanics (DoC
1), Format (DoC 2), Structure (DoC 3), and Content (DoC 4 and DoC 5).

Style and Tone (in Masse's article) address the readability/comprehensibilty
issues, while Policy addresses an organization's specific conventions.

While these last three (style, tone, and policy) may seem insignificant, they
can actually make quite a difference in the perception and reception of a
document. Yes, yes, of course understanding what you are writing about and
conveying that information is important. But the right editor can make a
technical writer look even better, smarter, and more informed. It doesn't
only have to be about fonts and grammar. A good editor can help keep a writer
from committing a legal faux pas (are products trademarked correctly?) or
help in re-evaluating significant writing style choices (is this just a note
or should it really be a caution?).

I'm not suggesting that these seven types of editing are the *only* types of
editing that can be done, just that Masse's model has helped me over the
years; especially when I was editing my own documents. If you want another
article that suggests other types and levels of edit, check out Mary Fran
Buehler's "Defining Terms in Technical Editing: The Levels of Edit as a
Model" (Technical Communication, Fourth Quarter, 1981, pp. 10-15). There are
others, naturally, these just happen to be two that I liked (so I have more
information about them). Just as an FYI: It's more likely that you'll find
these sources at a college/university library (US) than at your public

That has been your mini-class in editing for today. <g> By the way, I'm not
a tech comm professor and I don't play one on television, either.

Have a great week,

Kirsten Petersen
technical writing consultant
*DoC acronym created/added by me (not Andrew) for comparison information only.
(What other disclaimers do I need? Where's an editor when I need one?)

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