FWD: Re: Editing Issues and what-nots

Subject: FWD: Re: Editing Issues and what-nots
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 10:43:45 -0700

Name withheld upon request. Please reply on list.


> I seem to be unable to edit my own work. I know that this is
> an uncommon occurrence, but I really need to address this issue as it
> bordering on embarrassing. I'm wondering if any other writers who have
> found themselves in this predicament would be so kind as to share
> remedies/methodologies?

Hi, there!
You can come work with me and we can edit each other's work!
I've had a similarly difficult situation. In my department, the writers
are supposed to produce publication quality work (and edit all
reviewer's material for content, format, grammar, spelling, and
punctuation) without assistance from another writer or editor. What
comes off my desk is supposed to be ready for the printers.
Working under this pressure has been daunting (especially since
I didn't find out this was the expectation until I'd been here for
nearly a year, which caused some other complications we needn't discuss
;-) ). Luckily, I have gained from this experience--my skills are being
honed as an editor, even of my own work!
What solutions have I found? When I asked our senior tech
writer how she achieves this standard of perfection, she said that she
just tries to be very careful the first time she writes something, and
then she goes over it once more before handing it out for review. (She
did seem confused that this might be hard to do in only two steps. Do
other tech writers feel the same way about this? Is this the
distinction between a senior tech writer and just a tech writer?)
And, just between you and me and the wall (and 3,500 other tech
writers!), I've had additional trouble because while this senior tech
writer has been a wonderful, very supportive coworker, and I enjoy
working with her, at times I find my work is directly compared to hers.
She has been working with this material for nearing a decade, so I
imagine that a lot of the formatting, style, and content issues are now
second nature to her. Unfortunately, I, without this advantage,
continue to struggle along by doing successive editing passes.
In any case, I've found this scheme to be fairly effective:
First, I make changes.
Second, I proofread my changes comparing word-by-word with my edits.
Second, I read through the new material and look at it for content and
logic. Thirdly, I look for style and formatting errors.
Of course, if I notice any problems in my first pass, I stop and fix
them then. Then, if I have time, I try to go through the whole thing
again to make sure all the changes really were made, the content flows,
and the style, punctuation, and grammar are correct.
However, this does place inordinate focus on polishing a
document for review and no emphasis on the original creative writing
process. But, such is the onus of legacy documentation...
From my experience as a writer and teacher, trying to make a
document perfect when first it flows from your (or an SME's) pen is the
quickest way to kill the creative process and freeze the content of
whatever was written first, just because it was written first. If
you're lucky, and the first thing you wrote was great, then no problem.
However, if it was mediocre (or worse) you end up spending hours
beautifying text that isn't all that helpful to the reader--and then you
ship it to your customers! Aaaagh!
I don't know what your personal solution will be. One option is
to try and find a position where you work closely with other writers and
edit each other's work. My impression is that this is more likely to
happen in larger companies. Another solution is to buckle down, develop
a strict procedure with yourself to go through all the editing passes
you need and apply it every time you write. If you don't you will miss
something. (For example, I proofread a document recently, but I skipped
my spell check step and, oops, some typos got through.)
In the end, the matter of greatest importance here is that you
have a good rapport with your supervisor so that you can work through
any difficulties you have in a productive, growth-oriented manner. This
is a very important point that a tech writer has to deal with that has
nothing to do with your actual work and everything to do with your
health as an employee.
Good luck! My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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