Re: Do techies really know what other techies need? -Reply

Subject: Re: Do techies really know what other techies need? -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 10:52:13 -0800

Dear Sella:

I have come across a brief article by the venerable Don Bush in the
March 1996 issue of the San Diego STC newsletter. Don's article is
entitled "Seven Principles of Content Editing," and some of the
principles (which he says are for getting started) may apply to the
problem you brought up earlier this week. In particular:

1. Learn to cut copy. "Both our proposals and our manuals are too
wordy," Don says.

2. Use top-down organization. My take on it: Engineers frequently put
their best points at the end. If that happens, move the good stuff up
to the top and say to the engineer "Look, I'm not changing your
meaning. You've made good points here; all I want to do is move them
up higher to be sure readers read them."

3. Use the theme-rheme concept. Don says: "Put your new thoughts at
the end of the sentence, in the stress position. Then you may be able
to use that thought to start the next sentence, which will end with
something even newer."

4. Let the authors have their words. Work extensively on the
structure, but leave technical jargon alone. That's an editor's land
mine.

5. Edit to the idiom.

6. Let the authors know you're on their side. Listen to what they
want to say and help them say it. Do not slap their wrists.

7. Do not argue about nitpicks. Do not pussyfoot either. But save
your ire for something important, like making authors supply missing
content.

I have listed the principles in the same order that Don did which of
course is not the same order you might choose to approach them. I
like the simplicity and the brevity of Don's words. And also the
cool-headedness and lack of shrillness. It's a good example.

Don of course is a frequent contributor to InterCom and the co-author
(with Charles P. Campbell) of How to Edit Technical Documents (Oryx
Press) which got a nice review in the May 1996 edition of Technical
Communication.

Bill Sullivan
bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com
San Diego, California

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