Re: Editing, shmediting

Subject: Re: Editing, shmediting
From: Buck & Tilly Buchanan <writer -at- DHC -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 07:18:41 -0500

Technical Writing: An art?
by Buck Buchanan

Writers, like other artists, should understand that criticism
absolutely must come for their writing to improve. Like the sculptor
who, when asked how on earth he could create such a beautiful work,
answered, "I simply chip away everything that's not a horse," I
arrogantly consider myself a sculptor--an artist, and the work that I'm
creating will become a sculpture only after I've stripped away
everything that doesn't fit into my and my editor's idea of what the
story or manual should contain.

This is especially true for technical writing. Our critics are called
Editors, and to get our back up when an editor becomes too harsh
(without changing meaning) is similar to the playwright who goes into a
funk when the newspaper critic writes about the lousy play he attended
last night.

Most of us, after a few sessions with the editor who is presently
critiqueing our tech manual, get to know what that editor wants to see.
Every editor in my professional life had pet peeves that have ranged
from hating commas--and deleting them to the point of changing meaning;
up to those which I consder among the most important aids to advancing
my career. I still see my own number one pet peeve almost daily in the
older books at a company where I'm now revising user's manuals. Twenty
years ago, when I wrote "Depress the MANUAL-AUTOMATIC switch to toggle
system to Automatic," and Sherry commented in the margin that, "Only
people can be DE-pressed; use ' press' please," it IM-pressed me for
life. I never write "Press the switch" that I don't recall her with

Sadly, Sherry's chain-smoking brought an early end to her valuable
contributions to mine and other writers' work.

Buck Buchanan
writer -at- dhc -dot- net
Arlington, TX

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