Re[2]: How to edit constructively

Subject: Re[2]: How to edit constructively
From: KnoxML1 -at- TEOMAIL -dot- JHUAPL -dot- EDU
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 10:18:33 EST

Glenda Jeffrey asked about ways to edit constructively to help new writers

You've gotten lots of good comments already, but you might consider one other
thing. Why not send the writers to a short class or two on basic copyediting?
They can learn clear techniques for coping with awkward working, ambiguity, and
grammatical woes, all of which seem to concern you. Most tech writers must
occasionally edit, as you are doing. Learning to edit other people's work can
give a perspective on one's own weaknesses while depersonalizing the process of
having one's own work edited. The short classes given by Editorial Experts (EEI,
Inc., Alexandria, Virginia) are very good, but I'm sure there are others.

You might consider going to the classes, too. They may help you find a more
effective approach to editing. By going, you also demonstrate that you are not
"punishing" but seeking new information along with them, and you could avoid
inadvertently sabotaging what they learn by contradicting it when they get back.
(It's amazing how many managers send people to writing classes and then refuse
to let them apply what they learned. It's very easy to do, because there are so
many "right" ways to write.) I have taken a number of EEI's classes over the
years. I learned much about the mechanics of producing clear prose and much
about coping gently with writers' egos while teaching them to improve their


Margaret Knox
Technical writer/editor
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
margaret -dot- knox -at- jhuapl -dot- edu

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