Matching Editing to Specific Needs

A technical document goes through several stages during development and requires multiple reviews before it is complete. Using a combination of internal and external reviewers helps ensure the final product meets its intended goal and contains a negligible number of errors. An external reviewer may be referred to as an editor, but depending on the state of the document, more specific direction may be required. An editor's review can span from complex content analysis to fixing the minutia of the technical paper. It is best to have a clear set of tasks when determining editor requirements rather than use a specific term alone. Often duties can overlap at different times, and editors may use additional terms to define specific tasks. Adding to the possible confusion, when editors use other words to describe their skill-set, the result is often misleading to the detriment of time, budgets, and the quality of the technical document. This article explains potential editing terms and their variants, when to engage editors, the tasks related to the terms, and potential editor titles or skills for which to look.

Developmental and Structural Writing and Editing/Revising

Developmental and structural writing and editing or revising focuses on the content and organization of the document. An external source should complete this review either as the subject matter experts (SME) create a draft document or soon after to avoid rework. During this stage, a writer, editor looks at the document as a whole to determine if the content meets the intended purpose. They check that the content is in a logical order for the audience, not just the SMEs. They also make sure the content makes sense by asking for clarification. For example, a process step was omitted, or the content assumes the reader has specific knowledge of the subject or removes unnecessary information.

Potential editor titles to engage include:

  • Technical Writer/Editor

Consistency Editing

Consistency editing ensures consistency within a document or a group of records. This task is essential when dealing with program documentation, where there are multiple types of documents, and there are numerous documents of each type.

When reviewing for consistency, an editor verifies the single document is consistent within itself, matches records of the same type, and contains the key components that tie all of the program documentation together. This includes looking at the document structure/sections, formatting, and program-specific language.

Potential editor titles to engage include:

  • Technical Writer/Editor

Copy and Line Editing

Copy and line editing focus on the clarity and conciseness of the writing regarding the document's type, style, and audience. For example, legal and standards documents, marketing content, and training papers have different writing styles targeted to the intended audience. This task is most successful once the document is efficiently organized and content is in place, but it can be, and is, done during earlier stages. A copy editor reviews a document as a whole, and a line editor examines the document line-by-line. Still, both have the same focus on overall writing quality and consistency. They review for passive voice, long phrasing, run-on sentences, regional colloquialisms, and unoriginal phrases.

Potential editor titles to engage include:

  • Technical Writer/Editor
  • Copy or Line Editor

Mechanical Editing/Proofreading

Mechanical editing or proofreading is fixing the document minutia. While last in this list, automated editing or proofreading can be performed throughout the editing process and must be done at the end regardless of previous efforts. It is often performed multiple times, primarily if internal reviewers fixate on these small details instead of the content and overall organization. An editor reviews spelling and grammar during this task and checks for consistent capitalization, abbreviations, punctuation, and formatting. When finalizing a document, the editor verifies that no errors were introduced when changes were accepted or rejected, provides a final check, and updates all fields and links in a document, including the table of contents and any figure or table references. They also verify any publication dates, copyright years, or other aspects that may change over time are current.

Potential editor titles to engage include:

  • Technical Writer/Editor
  • Copy or Line Editor
  • Proofreader

Conclusion

Each stage in the editing process improves your final deliverable by improving clarity and reducing errors. In turn, you can trust that your audience is efficiently getting the information they need when they need it. At Radiant Digital, our Technical Writers and editors can support all of your writing and editing needs, no matter the stage of your technical documentation. Contact us today to see how we can help you meet your documentation goals.