How to edit constructively?

Subject: How to edit constructively?
From: Glenda Jeffrey <jeffrey -at- HKS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 1996 21:57:12 GMT

Can anyone post some suggestions on how to edit a writer's work so
that you help the writer to improve? That is, what is the best way
to supply constructive criticism?

Some background: I am an engineer turned tech writer; I am managing
three writers who are all writing software documentation. All three
writers are also technical people turned writers.

I already know I have a tendency to edit first drafts in copious
detail. I've heard that this is generally not a good idea, but I'm not
sure where to draw the line. If I'm seeing bad sentence structure in a
first draft, I'm inclined to point it out so that the writers know
they are off on the wrong track from the beginning. Is this bad?

Another point -- am I better off rewriting a sentence or parapraph to
"show them how it's done," or should I just say, "this section is
unclear, awkward, whatever; please rewrite it."? Clearly, it's
time-consuming for me to rewrite their work, but it is also
time-consuming to iterate endlessly in search of an unclear goal...

Any suggestions from the "voice of experience" would really help.
Thanks in advance...
Glenda Jeffrey Email: jeffrey -at- hks -dot- com
Hibbitt, Karlsson & Sorensen, Inc Phone: 401-727-4200
1080 Main St. Fax: 401-727-4208
Pawtucket, RI 02860 Web:

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