© 2010 Ugur Akinci
Guide to Technical Editing by Anne Eisenberg is a book outdated in some regards (printed in 1992) but the principles of editing covered in this 182-page volume are well established, still valid, and richly illustrated. For example, the illustration of a “rocket” on page 88 is one such visual element that clearly betrays the pre-Internet age of this otherwise excellent manuscript. Yet this book has a lot going for it.
For one thing, it is full of before-and-after examples in which Ms. Eisenberg shows how she would edit a technical statement or paragraph, by providing more than one editing options. That illustrates not only the correct way to edit a technical document, but also the alternative ways of doing the same, thus preserving our creative freedom while executing as delicate and necessary a task as editing. Editing titles, tables, figures, and different styles of and approaches to editing are each given their own chapter.
The author has used sidebar space cleverly and productively by noting a “Problem” here and a “Solution” there, all indexed to the text immediately to the right or left of the sidebar. Such contextual presentation is very effective indeed.
For example, the Before-and-After figures on page 60 are accompanied on the sidebar by these notes: “Problem: Detailed figure numbered, but not explained… Solution: Editor adds informative Caption: Fig. 3-3 Cross-section of a typical forced-air dryer.”
Another important feature of this volume is the Dictionary of technical communication terms that take from page 85 all the way through p. 125. It includes 3 types of words: a) Basic terms in grammar, usage and style; b) Printing and production terms; and c) Definitions of major types of technical writing.
But the section I really love is the one at the very end: EXERCISES. Although the exercises in the main body of the book have one type of error each, these special exercises have multiple errors! The author challenges us to demonstrate what we’ve learned in 8 different substantial and challenging editing exercises. If you like writing and editing as I do you’ll have a lot of fun with these gems.
Let’s finish this review with author’s own words, describing the 3 different groups of intended audience for which this book is written:
“This book is intended for students in technical writing classes interested in editing; for technical professionals who need to learn the rudiments of editing either for their own work or for the work of others who report to them; and for people from countries where conventions for technical editing differ form those in the United States.”
(Do you have a technical communication book that you’d like to have reviewed? Let us know…)