Editors -Reply

Subject: Editors -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- smtplink -dot- deltecpower -dot- com>
To: marners -at- CORSAIR -dot- mantech-wva -dot- com
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 09:31:01 -0800

Dear Stacey:

I will be very interested in the replies you get to your questions. I
am sure that many of us would regard it as a favor if you saved the
replies, put them into a single post or document, and made them
available to anyone who asked. Here are some thoughts on your
questions.

>Now I'm reading that stuff for clarity and, although it's
gotten a lot better, I still don't have practical knowledge
about what
I'm reading. Does this matter?

You don't say what the audience is for the stuff you are reading.
Getting a grasp on the audience should be one of the first things as
technical writer or technical editor does. If the audience is a lay
audience in any sense of the word, then you do not need a practical
knowledge of the subject. It is up to the writer to make it all
clear. Even if the audience is technical to some degree, it should be
clear enough to be understandable. As editor, you should arm yourself
with a good English dictionary (possibly a house standard) and any
appropriate technical dictionaries. Terms used should be in the
dictionary. Jargon, argot, cant, and slang should either be defined
somehow or be translated into English.

>I was also just curious how the
editing/tech writing situation is handled in different
companies. Are
they usually the same person or do you just do a lot of peer
editing?
Here I usually only get to read through a document once before
it goes out the door.

Any piece of technical writing has to be read many times. It has to
be read for technical accuracy, for sense, for grammar, for
compliance with house style, for completeness, and I am not sure in
what order. Then, after the engineers have added their comments it
should go back to an editor for what I call follow-through.

Follow-through means making sure the engineer's technical edits did
nothing to destroy the rest of the piece. Any of several things can
happen. They can correct a word or phrase in one place, but that word
or phrase can occur throughout. They can add or subtract a word or
phrase, and totally destroy a sentence or paragraph.

> My last question has to do with setting up a documentation
department.
<snip> I find it very fulfilling when people bring me memos to
proof or in-process writing to get advice about structure. Although
it does happen, it doesn't happen very often. How do I introduce my
self as a resource? Does it just take time?

I would hope your boss would introduce you and do a lot of the
reminder-work for you. If you have the opportunity, be sure to remind
people that you are an available resource and you have the time to
help them. You will have to do a lot of self-promotion and, yes, it
will take time. It all takes time.

A year from today you will know more about your company's product and
the field your company serves. I would suggest you look at your place
in the scheme of things, and build on that. Your job is to support
the effort by helping everyone to write clear and possibly forceful
sentences. You are not a scientist or an engineer or a marketing
coordinator, in other words. You are a member of the team. Try to be
a better team player. Do you ever look at other teams such as
athletes, actors, or musicians? Can you learn something there?

Each person you have to work with is an individual. Some will accept
you, some will need work and not a little patience and diplomacy. I
can only tell you to keep your focus on the job you were hired to do,
and to do the best work you can.

At the same time, you might consider some of your other interests and
skills, if they are related. If you see a use for one of them, and you
have the time, talk to your boss about it. For example, you could
create and publish an in-house style guide. Or you could develop some
in-house writer training. It all helps, and it all takes time.

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