Issue 77, 20 November 2003
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber
In this issue...
Council of Biology Editors Guidelines on levels of edit
More arguments for substantive technical editing
Maturation of a technical editor: micro and macro editing
Typesetting using Microsoft Word?
A collection of resources
Contentious is back -- as a weblog
For Australian editors: Residential Editorial Program
For Australian editors: Accreditation Working Group's draft report
My books: Taming Microsoft Word and others
Subscription information and privacy statement
Levels of Technical Editing, by David E. Nadziejka, was published in 1999 by the Council of Biology Editors (now Council of Science Editors). It is available from their website, https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/commerce/pubs_orderform.cfm, ISBN 0914340158.
I've mentioned this booklet before, but only recently got a copy to read. It's a slightly different approach to the classic Jet Propulsion Laboratories' "levels of edit" concept by Van Buren and Buehler in 1980.
David Nadziejka proposes a new system of editing that considers the special nature of technical documents and the unique responsibilities of those who edit them. He suggests a major change in the levels concept, to emphasize that
"...the primary editorial focus must be to help ensure that the technical content is complete, accurate, and understandable to the intended audience."
Even the lowest level of editing, which he calls the Rush Edit, remains completely focused on content.
This short (24 pages) document is essential reading for those who need arguments to back up their claim that technical editors should be involved in substantive editing in addition to copyediting.
"Technical Editing as Quality Assurance: Adding Value to Content," by Michelle Corbin, Pat Moell, and Mike Boyd, in the August 2002 issue of the STC journal Technical Communication, pages 286-300, is an excellent article, especially for editors working in software development environments.
It's available from the STC's website to members who don't have a copy of the printed journal. If you're not a member of the STC, surely you know someone who is, or you might be able to get a copy through a library.
On a related topic, the STC's Technical Editors SIG mailing list in June included an exchange about the development or "maturation" of a technical editor. The discussion began with one member posting this sequence:
Stage 1, micro-editing: (details snipped; essentially copy editing)
Stage 2, micro- and macro-editing: ... A stage-2 editor can make refined and subtle judgments and recommendations not only on micro-editing questions, but on substantive, macro-editing issues, including paragraphing and overall organization.
Stage 3: At the "virtuoso" stage, editors
I responded that in my experience these descriptions are common in the editing community. However, I have long been concerned about the prevalent view that editors of technical material should or must start out at the detail (micro) level and progress to the substantive (macro) level, and that a macro-level editor works (or should work) well at both levels.
In my experience, the skill sets for the two levels (micro and macro) are quite distinct and different from each other, especially in a _technical_ editing environment. One person may be (or become) good at both skill sets, but many people who are (or could be) very good macro editors are not good at micro-editing, and vice-versa. For example, I've worked with people who had superb analytical skills (finding problems in the text and/or inconsistencies between the text and the product being documented, and often suggesting very good solutions to those problems) but who had only a tenuous grasp of some punctuation and grammatical issues. As long as these people were tasked only with macro-level editing work, they were extremely valuable on the project, because they tended to pick up on issues that the technical (subject-matter) experts did not notice.
I referred to an article by Rick Lippincott on this subject, in http://www.jeanweber.com/news/tenews73.htm#accuracy
A reader wrote in response to my post to the mailing list, "During the last three years, we outsourced the editing... Some [editors] were more experienced with doing substantive editing and some with copyediting...
"We found that the two editors who could perform substantive edits at the macro level both needed intense instructions and deliberate coaching when assigning them copyedits. Otherwise, they would "go overboard" and perform a more substantive edit every time, which was very unnecessary and didn't match the client's defined processes. BTW, these editors were highly technical and for our client, could very easily understand the jargon and products, which made them expert at seeing gaps in the writers' instructions and conceptual text.
"Conversely, the copyeditors had great difficulty "stretching" to do more substantive edits."
A free article titled "Books, Typography, and Microsoft Word" by Aaron Shepard explains how Word can be used to set type of a quality high enough to be used in desktop book publishing. You can get the free report here: http://www.aaronshep.com/publishing
Aaron also offers an expanded version of the article in e-book form. One of the most interesting things about the e-book is the quality of its typesetting, done in Word, of course.
Free online dictionaries and four multi-lingual translators, http://www.wordreference.com
Email address encoder (which does for you what I suggested in the last newsletter) http://www.wbwip.com/wbw/emailencoder.html
"Prescriptive" Audience Analysis: Moving Beyond the Purely Descriptive, by Geoff Hart, http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/writing/prescriptiveanalysis.html
The Style Guide is "Dead": Long Live the Dynamic Style Guide! by Geoff Hart http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/writing/dynamicstyleguide.html
Understanding and Planning for Translation Services, by Andres Heuberger, ForeignExchange Translations, Inc. http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/writing/trenches_planningfortranslation.html
In the past, I've recommended the online newsletter CONTENTIOUS, which covered all kinds of content issues for online media. About a year ago, the editor stopped publishing it.
I'm happy to see that CONTENTIOUS has been relaunched -- as a weblog! http://blog.contentious.com
Here is part of the announcement message:
- It will be updated with fresh content daily, or at least every few days.
- It will cover a broader range of topics. (The new tagline is, "News and musings about how we communicate in the online age.")
- You can comment on postings, so other CONTENTIOUS readers can read your thoughts.
- Announcements of new postings are available by e-mail and RSS feed.
I'm impressed with what I've seen so far.
The 3rd biennial Residential Editorial Program (REP) will take place at Varuna - the Writers' House in Katoomba, NSW, between 29 March and 3 April 2004.
This event is primarily for literary editors, not technical editors, but it may be of interest to some readers. Guidelines and application forms are available from Robyn Sheahan-Bright, Program Manager, tel 07 4972 9760 or email email@example.com The closing date for applicants interested in attending REP is Tuesday 9 December 2003.
The program "aims to identify and develop the professional skills of good editors, raise their profile in the literary community, and enhance their abilities to foster literary talent whilst working within their publisher's business expectations".
It allows mid-career editors to develop literary editing skills with highly respected industry practitioners, including three of Australia's most accomplished editors.
This program is administered by the Literature Board of the Australia Council with the assistance of members from the Australian publishing industry.
CASE (Council of Australian Societies of Editors) has been working for some years on an accreditation scheme for editors. This is not primarily for technical editors, but may be of interest, especially for those working for science and technical publishers in Australia.
The workshop will be held 1pm to 4.30 pm
Saturday 29 November 2003
Sydney Room, City Tattersalls, 198 Pitt St (opposite City Centre monorail)
No charge for the meeting
The draft report includes proposals for an accreditation scheme for editors and recommendations about how such a scheme could be implemented. Comment on the draft report has been extended until 31 December 2003.
If you would like to comment separately, or if you can't make it to the workshop, please email Pamela Hewitt for a PDF or paper copy of the report. firstname.lastname@example.org
Taming OpenOffice.org Writer 1.1,
Taming Microsoft Word (3 editions, for Word 2002, 2000, and 97), http://www.jeanweber.com/books/tmw
Editing Online Help, http://www.jeanweber.com/books/olhbk.htm
Electronic Editing, http://www.jeanweber.com/books/e-edit.htm
© Copyright 2003, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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