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 16:55:24 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: "Janice Gelb" <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: May 16, 2003 04:36 PM
Subject: Re: What to look for in a technical editor

: > From: "Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
: > :
: > : Simply put, an editor cannot make intelligent editorial decisions from a
: > : position of ignorance. As such, product and subject matter knowledge is
: > : primary importance.
: >
: > This is why some contend that the editor's job does not require less
: > 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
: >
: > Editors in technical milieus, in large part, do the *technical reviews*
: > SME's are supposed to do.
: >
: First of all, this statement assumes a lot.

Yup. My brain must've been on backward!

I have been
: working as a technical editor for a long time and in the
: environments in which I've worked I've never been responsible
: for technical accuracy, nor expected to do a technical review
: of a document. I have often found technical inaccuracies
: anyway, but those were considered to be an added bonus to
: my primary function. My primary function is to make sure that
: the document serves the reader well, is organized in a way
: that best presents the information, does not contain errors
: of factual inconsistency, is not lacking in sufficient
: information to explain a concept or task, uses language
: correctly, and follows the style guidelines determined by
: our company.
: A technical review and an edit are not the same thing.

I agree. Perhaps I was overgeneralizing based on my own limited experience. In
my last job there were multiple errors that leapt out at me that no one had
said anything about. I eventually became the one who checked for accuracy and
I became intimately involved with the product -- as if I were a writer.
Technical reviewers would skim the text and leave egregious errors untouched.
But perhaps my experience is not the norm.

: Subject matter experts and the writer are responsible for
: technical accuracy every place I've worked. With the volume
: of work the editors typically have to do, and the number of
: different projects and documents the editors are expected to
: edit at those companies, they could not possibly become familiar
: enough with all aspects of the products to be responsible for
: catching technical errors.

Again, I think I overgeneralized. (Ouch, that wet noodle hurts!)

: That said, I agree that the editor should be familiar
: enough with the *general* subject matter area that he or
: she does not waste the time of the writer with elementary
: questions in that area.
: As for the example above, I might not spot a technical
: inaccuracy in how complex routing rules work in a telephone
: system but I probably would spot either gaps in the
: explanation or inconsistencies with other explanations
: that might lead me to a query. But again, it's never
: been my job to spot technical inaccuracies. That has
: been the job of the writer and the SME, plus whoever
: else does the technical review.

It became my job because management told me to fix what needed to be fixed.
Anything I did was reviewed, of course.

: Bonnie said in a follow-up message that ignorance of the
: product could cause the editor to raise grammatical issues
: hat change meaning or introduce errors when giving feedback
: to writers. That sounds to me like bad editing in general
: and has nothing to do with whether the editor is an expert
: on the particular product or technology.

Maybe I was just so confused at agreeing with Andrew that I could make no
sense. But there are just as many "bad" editors as there are "bad" writers

: Finally, as anyone who has been reading this list for any
: length of time knows, "technical documentation" and "technical
: writer" do not have universal, uniform definitions. The same
: goes for "technical editor." Expectations and situations are
: varied, so I don't think anyone can make a flat, blanket
: statement about what "the editor's job" is or is not.

True. I am sorry for confusing the issue rather than shedding light.

Bonnie Granat
Granat Editorial Services


Robohelp X3, from eHelp, lets you quickly and easily create
professional Help systems for all your Windows and Web-based
applications, including Net.

Order RoboHelp X3 in May and receive a $100 mail-in rebate, PLUS
free RoboScreenCapture and WebHelp Merge Module.

Order RoboHelp today:

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as:
archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
Next by Author: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
Previous by Thread: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
Next by Thread: Re: What to look for in a technical editor

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads