Re: What to look for in a technical editor

Subject: Re: What to look for in a technical editor
From: Jean Hollis Weber <jean -at- jeanweber -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 May 2003 14:01:20 +1000

Rick Lippincott provides a stunning example of the power of job titles, when he writes,

... the quest for technical accuracy shouldn't be left to a person
called an "editor." You really need an entirely separate role, with an entirely
separate name. Take the word "editor" out of it so that there's no confusion
or expectation that the person is expected to do -any- type of language or
style checks.

What you are actually seeking is a separate position, one that I call a
"validator." The validator won't be looking at spelling, grammar, or style.
The editor won't be looking at technical accuracy.
The key difference between the technical editor and the validator is that there
is an implication (at least because of the name) that a technical editor will
mainly work at a desk, conducting a passive review. A validator, on the other
hand, is a more active reviewer, with more hands-on involvement and physical
participation in the process.

The role Rick describes is what I (and several large companies) call a _technical_ editor, for lack of a better term, but I agree that using a completely different term would help greatly in overcoming others' ideas of what an "editor" should do. But again if all boils down to the group, the team, and individuals' job descriptions -- and why I tell people to always, always clarify exactly what it is the client, employer, manager, writer, another team member, or whoever means by "editing", and then if necessary negotiate to have the role (re)defined to fit what's needed in a given situation.

Regards, Jean
Jean Hollis Weber
jean -at- jeanweber -dot- com
The Technical Editors' Eyrie


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