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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
Writing is re-writing; that is, editing.
Technical editing is a crucial part of all technical writing projects. But we have to remember there are multiple levels of technical editing which makes the task all the more challenging.
LEVEL 1: Spec Editing. Does the document satisfy all the macro requirements specified in the Documentation Plan? This check has several sub-levels, depending on the Documentation Plan.
a) Format Check. Is the document in the proper format and orientation? Did you use the official approved printed or online, structured or unstructured template(s)? Does the document have conditional content and/or multimedia content that it’s supposed to have? Does it have all the correct chapters, sections, and appendices? Do you have the correct document dimensions? Have you included a TOC, Index, List of Figures, or a List of Tables — in short, whatever is required by the Documentation Plan? Etc.
b) Audience and Readability Check. Is the document written for the audience specified in the Documentation Plan? Is the language and readability level appropriate for that audience? Etc.
LEVEL 2: Style Editing. Have you used the officially approved abbreviations, acronyms, and stylistic conventions specified in your (corporate or client) Guidelines? Are your figure and table captions formatted the way they should be? Have you used the correct font family, font size, and color palette? Is the language used free of obvious gender bias? Etc.
LEVEL 3: Comprehensibility Editing. Is the material presented in a logical easy-to-understand sequence? Are there any unnecessary sections or cliches that divert the attention and contribute nothing to the exposition? Are the analogies and metaphors selected correctly? Do you have the correct “tone” and “voice”? Is your tone unnecessarily sarcastic or humorous? Is it too bureaucratic and dry? Do you incorrectly assume that the audience knows too much or too little? Does the document deliver what it promised to do so in the introductory chapter/section? Etc.
LEVEL 4: Copy Editing. Are the individual sentences well-formed? Are there any grammatical errors? Do the verbs and subjects agree in case? Have you avoided misplaced qualifiers? Have you mixed long and short sentences properly, providing ease of reading? Did you try using active voice and avoid jargon except in those sections where it made sense? Did you spell-check your copy to make sure there are no typos? Etc.
As you can see, technical editing involves a lot. That’s why for any top-notch organization to have an experienced technical editor on board is not a luxury but a vital need.