Re: What to look for in a technical editor

Subject: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- editors-writers -dot- info>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 12:42:15 -0400

From: "Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>

: ----- Original Message -----
: > To do a good job they must be knowledgeable in proper English usage while
: > providing additional value to the work. This is done by looking at the
: > larger picture. Direct knowledge of the product, while helpful, is of
: > secondary importance.
: I couldn't disagree more. Direct knowledge of the product is of PRIMARY
: importance. It is impossible to intelligently edit any complex technical or
: user manual without experience with the subject matter.

Nor could I more strongly disagree. Without knowledge of the product, an
editor can absolutely *ruin* documentation and cause much time to be wasted
while the writers and developers deal with the mess an ignorant editor

: All the English skills in the universe cannot compensate for product
: Like I said in an earlier thread. How can you effectively make editorial
: decisions, if you don't understand the technology. How do you know if
: is confusing, cryptic, or poorly organized if you have no understanding of
: subject matter.

It is insanity itself to think that one can edit -- any more than write --
documentation without a good understanding of the product.

: Simply put, an editor cannot make intelligent editorial decisions from a
: position of ignorance. As such, product and subject matter knowledge is of
: primary importance.

This is why some contend that the editor's job does not require less technical
understanding. If I am going to spot a writer's error in describing how
complex routing rules work in a telephone system, I'd better know how they
work, myself, or I'm deluding myself that I am adding value to the product.

Editors in technical milieus, in large part, do the *technical reviews* that
SME's are supposed to do.

: I think you have been given awful advice if you think knowing the product
: subject matter is of secondary importance. I realize some people here have
: obsessed with remaining ignorant and will fight to the death to defend their
: stupidity and its "value" to employers. I'd would advise you ignore those
: people.

I don't think anyone holds this view, Andrew. The difference of opinion (as it
appears to me) is that, for example, I didn't need to know anything about
computer telephony to learn how a specific computer telephony product works
and then make sure that writers were providing correct information. By the
time I finished my exhaustive review of the documentation set I was a
knowledgeable about the subject, but not before. My company simply provided me
with the time to learn all I needed to be able to make sure the documentation
was accurate, effective, and written professionally.

Bonnie Granat
Granat Editorial Services


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Re: What to look for in a technical editor: From: Andrew Plato

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