Re: Qualifications & Job Description for Technical Editor

Subject: Re: Qualifications & Job Description for Technical Editor
From: "Elaine R. Firestone" <elaine -at- CALVAL -dot- GSFC -dot- NASA -dot- GOV>
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 11:15:30 -0500

Phillip writes:
Hello all:
I have 9 writers on staff, and the editing load has become too much for me
to ensure high quality edits on my time alone. So, I'm putting together a
list of qualifications and duties for a Technical Editor position in my
dept. I'd like some objective feedback on qualifications, as well as job
description. This position involves *heavy editing* of technical documents,
rather than strictly technical writing per se.

Here is the current dept. heirarchy:

Project Coordinator/Writer (team leader, comparable to Sr. Tech Writer, but
more responsibilities).
Technical Writer (writers with 3+ years experience)
Associate Technical Writer (entry level writers)

The new Editor position seems (IMHO) to be parallel with the Tech Writer
position, rather than a grade above or below.
Any thoughts?

Speaking as a technical editor (in science), I suggest that the TE should
be about one grade above the tech writers. Reason? when push comes to
shove about the structure, logic, or syntax of a sentence, _someone_ has to
have the last word if there are problems. Unless you, as the manager, are
ready to deal with these, then the editor has to have some leverage.

You don't say what your company's field of endeavor is. Software?
Biology? Hardware? Engineering? I don't agree with the person who said the
candidate should definately be an English major. Whatever their major was
in college doesn't have a large bearing on what kind of editor they'll be.
Aside from having a definate facility for English and prior _technical_
editing experience, you have to decide on how much you're willing to train
the person in your subject matter versus what background do they already
have in that or related subject matters?

Case in point: A number of years ago, I had a middle-school English
teacher working for me over the summer (some kind of county program with
NASA). She was appalled that we had past, present, and future tenses all
in the same paragraphs. I had to explain to her that in science, what
you're doing now has a direct bearing on what happened in the past and what
will happen in the future. That's part of scientific writing. (For what
it's worth, I have a science degree, although I minored in English.)

Depending on the workload, the subject matter, and the level of language
difficulty of your documents, I suggest the TE have *at least* three years

My $0.02.


Elaine R. Firestone
elaine -at- calval -dot- gsfc -dot- nasa -dot- gov
elaine -at- seawifs -dot- gsfc -dot- nasa -dot- gov

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