Re: Question about the Hackos book (Long)

Subject: Re: Question about the Hackos book (Long)
From: Avon Murphy <amurphy -at- WLN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 18:25:20 -0800

Garret brings up an excellent question about editors' roles.

The distinction that JoAnn makes is, I feel, still valid for the overall
publication process. Her sample job description for developmental
editors (pages 374-75 of "Managing Your Documentation Projects") neatly
suggests a level of responsibility far different from the tasks
suggested by the term "copyediting." The editor who helps the writer
actually rethink, refocus, and reshape a publication at its very
foundation is not "simply checking copy." This editor is working at a
higher level and, therefore, is generally compensated at a higher rate.

We've long had a system in which varying types of publications receive
different kinds and amounts of attention, depending on such factors as
budget and time. I still refer writers to Robert Van Buren and Mary Fran
Buehler's _The Levels of Edit_ (first published by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in 1976) for a careful explanation of how to determine the
level of editing effort to commit to a project. (BTW, JoAnn's
"five-level publications-maturity model" is a wholly unrelated concept.)
According to the levels of edit approach, only the first-class
publication receives developmental (the authors call it "substantive")
editing in addition to language and other types of editing.

The strongest publication programs still support lots of people devoted
mainly to developmental editing. Or for a homely illustration: In my day
job I'm official titled Developmental Editor. Although I do copyediting
as the need arises, I was hired mainly to make a difference in the
focus, relevance of content, and organization of books. And in my
after-hours job as a book review editor, the most critical and often
most time-consuming responsibility is working with each reviewer to
establish a defensible and clearly enunciated perspective, organize
summary and evaluation effectively, write with the tone of someone who
has the right to pass judgment on someone else's book, and rework the
review so that it may convince our readers that the reviewer has their
needs uppermost in mind. I copyedit at the end of the process, but I add
value mainly at the developmental end.

Where a project has someone simply called "editor," we're all over the
map nowadays as to whether that person can devote time early in the
project to developmental editing. Your lead editor is performing some
difficult but highly rewarding tasks. And as you describe her tasks, her
shaping and coaching work indicates she's clearly developing people, not
just projects.

Technical communicators who do developmental editing, regardless of
their exact job titles, can exercise tremendous influence within their
organizations. More power to anyone in this position!

Avon Murphy

Romaine, Garret H wrote:

> I am curious about the distinction made in chapter 16 of "Managing
> Your
> Documentation Projects" between copy editors and developmental editors
>
> (page 376). From my vantage point, most editors today no longer have
> the
> luxury of simply checking copy. For example, here at Tektronix our
> lead
> editor develops templates, trains peer editors, oversees the proofing
> process, sits on a Design Advisory team to coach writers, and has
> other
> tasks as well. Which all sounds fairly "developmental" to me, but it
> isn't part of her job title.
>
> Maybe I'm hung up in semantics, but have other Hackos readers tripped
> over this? Are there still enough editors left that are 'simply
> editors'
> to make this moot? Perhaps there is a detectable continuum, and Hackos
>
> is merely arguing to get as far away as possible from the less
> value-added end...but before I put my own spin on this excellent book,
> I
> thought I'd check with 3,500 other experts...
>
> Garret Romaine
> garret -dot- h -dot- romaine -at- exgate -dot- tek -dot- com
>
> Send commands to listserv -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu (e.g., SIGNOFF
> TECHWR-L)
> Search archives at:
> http://listserv.okstate.edu/archives/techwr-l.html,




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