Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing? (take II)

Subject: Re: Technical editing vs. technical writing? (take II)
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 09:56:27 -0700

Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca> wrote:
> Bruce Byfield expanded on my message: <<From the way that
> I've usually heard the term used, a "technical editor" is
> usually a substantive editor, with exertise in the subject
> matter - not just a copy editor. That may or may be implicit
> in your comments, but I thought the point should be stressed.>>
> Both roles are important. In our business, it's hard to see
> how an editor of any kind could do a good job without understanding
> the source material to a greater or lesser degree. The additional
> expertise required to go beyond copyediting to do true technical
> editing (which requires knowledge of the subject matter) or
> substantive editing (which involves making sure the material is
> effectively organized, factually consistent, and as easy to
> understand as possible) may sometimes be required of peer
> reviewers rather than editors.

This is true to a certain extent but in the environments
in which I've worked as a technical editor, it would be
virtually impossible to be completely familiar with every
product for which I got documentation to edit. I think good
documentation organization and clarity in writing are
standards that can be imposed even without intimate knowledge
of a particular product, although some technical knowledge
is certainly needed.

Also, sometimes I think that there is an advantage to not
having the editor be completely familiar with the product.
Sometimes writers tend to get so intimately involved with
the product and the engineering team that their writing
assumes knowledge about the product or its underlying
technology that the user does not have. An editor who is
outside the product a bit can more easily spot areas
where the writer is making these types of assumptions.

-- Janice

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