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Ali Ferguson wondered: <<I am currently doing a pilot study for my
Technical Editing Class. I am interested in knowing what practicing
technical editors believe are the most important skills/qualities
necessary for becoming a successful technical editor. For this
question, please just provide a brief response about what you think
are the most important skills a technical editor must possess. From
the answers to this open-ended question, I will then identify the
variables for successful editing and develop a more fine-tuned survey.>>
Obviously, and non-negotiably, you need to learn how to edit: that
means the grammatical underpinnings and strong (re)writing skills,
but more importantly the mental tools that let you empathize with
both the author and the reader, since both have needs that must be
met, often requiring compromise. This suggests a less-familiar set of
essential skills, namely communication skills: to be truly effective,
editing must become a dialogue with the author and a collaboration,
not a monologue or a dictation.
Another widely unrecognized skill that most writers would benefit
from: knowing the difference between what you know and what you think
you know. Writers who are being edited have the editor to save them
from foolish statements, but we editors rarely have anyone other than
the author to catch our errors. Thus, we need to learn more humility
than many of us innately possess. (Fortunately, I make enough
mistakes to be frequently reminded of my fallibility. Being married
also helps. <g>)
Tool skills are important, as modern editing may be even more time-
pressured than traditional editing, and these skills are increasingly
moving online (see below for my book, for instance). But the really
important skills are a good grasp of language and an ability to share
that skill with the author to help the author communicate successfully.
-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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