Re: Editing comments too harsh?

Subject: Re: Editing comments too harsh?
From: "Glanbrok, Conqueror of Bluntskulls" <conehead -at- OVERTHE -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 15:28:17 -0400

Vanessa Wilburn <vlwilburn -at- CPU -dot- COM>wrote:

> In my recent performance review, my manager said there have been
> about my editing comments being too harsh. Part of my job requires proof
> reading engineers' writing (I am the only tech writer in the company). I
> thought that I was being sensitive. Has anyone encountered this problem?
> What do you do to *not* tread too heavily on engineer egos?

Ah, the [insert name of SME] ego problem of the editor! What lovely
memories this brings back!

I used to be a copy editor at a professional association of scientists.
Most of them accepted corrections gracefully or grudgingly, but a few took
great personal umbrage at being corrected. As if their misuse of a pronoun
or omission of a punctuation mark demeaned their ability as scientists, for
god's sake.

The most pungent episode I experienced was working on a manuscript that
hadn't been proofread at all. It was chock full of mistakes. Every
paragraph had at least one. (Articles ranged from 20 paras to 500.) When
Dr. Fullofhimself received my markup, he flew into a rage. He called me up
and told me I wasn't qualified to edit his paper because I had no training
in the subject. Duh.

So I think it's inevitable that some of the SMEs whose work you edit cannot
adjust to the idea that they are not perfect. To get through to these few,
you might:

1. Reveal the ambiguity of a sentence by explaining its two (or more)
possible interpretations, then asking the author to clarify.

2. Reinforce your edits with citations from established style guides or
your company's guide.

3. Write an essay explaining the general and specific purposes of
copyediting, fact-checking, and other tasks you do as the editor, then
distribute the essay at the appropriate time.

Glanbrok, Conqueror of Bluntskulls
conehead -at- overthe -dot- net

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