Importance of Technical Editing

Regardless of how remarkable your document is or how well organized the material is, if it contains grammatical and spelling errors, the reader will probably not trust the document. A misspelled word or incorrect use of a word can take away the credibility of the entire document you have written. Little errors and inconsistencies in the usage of words can confuse your readers. Editing is the process of checking information to correct content, language, and stylistic errors.

Technical editing is revising a document that presents material related to science or technology to make it communicate more effectively. The main purpose of editing is to make sure that the audience gets an error free document. It is the process of reviewing a document to improve its language in terms of content, accuracy, coherence, and consistency.

Editing is very subjective term. If you ask five people to describe what it means to them, you will get answers as varied as the parabled five men who described different parts of an elephant. The truth is, good editing goes unnoticed, but even a single spelling mistake in a document brings in a lot of negative comments. Take a look at the following cartoon and poem. There are no spelling mistakes (typos), but are they error free? On the contrary, it is full of errors/mistakes.

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 The poem and the cartoon speaks volumes about the importance of the human eye taking a look at the document to find the mistakes. Though the spell checkers can be useful for finding some errors, they will not find correctly spelled wrong words (e.g. wait instead of weight) or double words such as “the the”. Some desktop publishing tools perform grammatical checks and may locate errors like double words.

Good editors know that they do a thankless job and this makes them even better. Remember, being a good editor is like being a masked superhero (or super girls) working behind the scene.

  • Writers don’t take editors seriously—Some writers have a very great self opinion and resent being edited as they feel that their writing is being questioned. As a result, editors must occasionally deal with stubborn writers who make not even incorporate the edits. The life of editors become rather difficult in such scenario because as professionals they trust the writers to do their part of work—incorporate the changes in the documents.
  • Good editing is invisible—The problem with writing is that no one appreciates good writing when they see it. The users are probably not aware that they are using a good document. But they quickly come to know that a document is not good. Good editing goes invisible, but bad editing stands out like a sore thumb. So, if you are not criticized for your editing, it means that you have done an excellent job.
  • No appreciation—Unfortunately most of the time, there is no appreciation for the work done by the technical writers as compared to the development teams.
    • When a document is error free and well organized, the writers may walk away with the recognition and the praises. Many a times, the editor had to make a few passes of edits to make the document remotely accurate, user friendly, and usable.
    •  After the product releases, the development team may sometimes include the writers for the release celebrations, but the editor is conveniently forgotten!
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