Respect

Subject: Respect
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 14:36:30 -0500

It's hard to get any respect if the product managers don't
appreciate the importance of documentation quality. If you
can teach them to appreciate quality (don't hold your
breath, hoping it'll grow in them), this appreciation will
make your life as an editor/reviewer one helluva lot
easier. In my current work, nothing gets past the Research
Director and Division Manager and into print unless it
sings. Authors who bang their head up against this part of
the approval process for long enough quickly learn the
value of a good edit, no matter how much red ink flows.

Another point: Sometimes it's easier to sell a heavy edit
if you have a mandate from a corporate style guide or must
deal with space constraints. For example, we publish a
series of research notes that fit on a single page, front
and back. The current layout limits us to roughly 1300
words, less the amount of space used by illustrations. Most
authors write far too many words, and it's easy to hand
them a page of red ink and say "you were 200 words too
long, so I edited more heavily than the manuscript would
otherwise need". This can sound a bit disingenous, so I
also note that the authors should spend their efforst
getting down the important information, and leave the
revisions (i.e., to meet space constraints) to me. Suddenly
I'm a helper, not a character assassin, and people start to
notice that (surprise!) their writing reads better too...
something they might not be willing to notice while wearing
their "why are you attacking me?" hats.

Conclusions? Get management to understand the value of
high-quality writing, and make your edits a boon, not a
boondoggle. The respect comes more naturally once these two
factors are in place.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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