Active Ownership (and the editorial role)

Subject: Active Ownership (and the editorial role)
From: Tom Campbell <klook -at- EUDORAMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 16:38:11 -0400

"An editor is one who separates the wheat from the chaff and prints the chaff." -- Adlai Stevenson

See, editors have been getting dissed for a long time.

In my experience, the editorial role is not at all one of a "mere wordsmith" who doesn't understand the content. Sure, there are people like that passing themselves off as technical writers, and maybe editors, too (though I've met only one technical editor since I became a "real" technical writer 3 years ago, and she contributed substantively to our CBT project; definitely not a poseur). But "mere wordsmithing" is not the *role* of the editor.

In the publishing world, specifically newspapers and magazines, editors come in many shapes (usually pear--sorry, couldn't resist!). There are assistant editors, managing editors, news editors, production editors, contributing editors, layout editors, copy editors, and more--including some folks who are just called "editors."

It seems that the type of editor who's been getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment on this list recently is the copy editor. A glance at the job descriptions listed at will give you an idea of the variety of duties performed by copy editors in their native habitat.

I don't think there are many people with the job title (or job description) of copy editor actually working in technical communication; I haven't come across one yet. Maybe others have more experience with the phenomenon and can comment more intelligently.

Over the centur--er, years--before I emerged from my chrysalis and became a technical writer, I worked as an editor in various situations: as sports editor and later "editor editor" of a weekly newspaper; editor of an adhesives industry trade magazine; assistant editor of a life insurance industry trade magazine; and editor of a music newsletter.

In each case I actually did a lot of writing as well as editing, and I *had* to understand the subject matter I was dealing with or I couldn't have gotten my work done, and then I would have gotten fired, and life would have been considerably less swell.

And of course the same is true now that I'm a technical writer.

Tom Campbell
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
--Mark Twain

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