Technical Editing

This unique, three-day online event will include presentations on all aspects of technical editing. The host/moderator for the conference was Angela Eaton, Associate Professor of Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

Tuesday, 16 October

Introductory Remarks, Angela Eaton, Texas Tech University

Cut the Fluff, Leah Guren, Cow TC

Is your prose too plump? Is your text tubby? Time to put it on a diet! Join this short session and learn to identify—and fix—the many faces of fluff.

Editing: Reviewing Levels and Choosing Types, Linda Oestreich and Michelle Corbin

Review the “Classic Nine” types and five levels of edit from the past and compare them to newer editing types in the current literature.  Learn how to apply levels of edits to today’s work world, tools, and conditions.

Everything (And We Mean Everything) We Know about Editing: A Review of Contemporary Research Studies in Technical Editing, Angela Shaffer, Alison Cope, Jennifer Freytag, Timothy Elliot, Brandon Strubberg, and Sarah Robblee

In this presentation, the presenters review the relatively small body of research studies in technical editing, analyzing these studies for content and thematic links. For this session's purposes, “research” is defined as articles and studies that are dependent upon qualitative or quantitative evidence, have a clear methodology, and utilize solid data to find single or multiple answers to a research question or questions. They also organize and discuss key content and methodological similarities and differences to identify potential gaps in the field.

Wednesday, 17 October

Editing Non-Native English, Amanda White

Tips from a former ESL instructor and expat on globalizing your editing skills.

Insights from Interviewing 49 Editors: Best Practices and Challenges, Cynthia McPherson, Angela Eaton, Liz Pohland, Sharba Chowdhury

Editing is a primary skill for technical communicators, a skill we ought to research thoroughly so that we might perform it efficiently and effectively. However, the majority of literature in the field is lore, defined as “knowledge of what ‘works’ in a classroom or work situation or as wisdom gained through experience. However, most published accounts . . . do not include any empirical tests of the strategies involved” (MacNealy, 1999, 8). Talented editors have provided descriptions of how editing ought to be conducted, from short descriptions of useful techniques to entire books describing editing procedures (Dragga and Gong, 1989), but few are substantiated with research. In this study, we built upon the few editing studies that do use research by interviewing forty-nine editors about their practices, comparing and contrasting their experiences with editing studies that have been performed previously. This presentation is the first time this full corpus of data has been presented.

Learning from Our “Mistakes”: How Technical Communicators Prioritize Error, Ryan Boettger

Usage error remains a popular topic for technical communicators. However, anecdotal discussions remain the best source of information on the errors that technical communicators might value over others. This presentation extends Boettger's earlier research on the editing tests administered to prospective technical writers and editors. He provides an index compiled from the errors identified in 55 editing tests and the opinions of 176 practitioners. This index weights these practitioners’ impressions of usage error along with the frequency and dispersion of each error in the editing test sample, offering a new perspective of how technical communicators prioritize error.

Embedding the Editor: Tips and Techniques for Editing Embedded Assistance, Julian Cantella

Writers are increasingly contributing to the design and development of user interfaces by developing embedded assistance. Applying the principles of progressive disclosure and minimalism, writers can capitalize on the promise of embedded assistance as a medium: to promote usability, prevent errors, and project a professional look and feel. Editors must keep pace, ensuring that user interactions and the content of embedded assistance live up to these principles. This presentation offers tips and techniques for editors and writers to collaborate on embedded assistance. Embedded assistance is a living entity, one that requires much more than a copy edit of the text.

Thursday, 18 October

STC Technical Editing Special Interest Group (SIG): Membership, Activities, and Value, Carol Lamarche, Co-Manager; Ann Marie Queeney, Quarterly Meetings Manager; Li-At Ruttenberg, Fundraising Events Manager

The Technical Editing SIG is a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) that focuses on issues related to technical editing. Their goal is to provide editing resources and leadership for STC members who want to learn more about technical editing and its important contributions to our profession. There are numerous benefits to membership in the SIG, including resources and opportunities to grow professionally and to expand your presence in the marketplace. The SIG provides free seminars tailored to technical editors, networking opportunities, savings on continuing education, collaborative authoring space, and a members-only listing employment bank.

The Evolving Role of the Technical Editor, Mary Jo David, Carol Lamarche, Patricia Moell, and Jenifer Servais

In the Internet age, customers won't wait for content. They want just the information they need, and they want it now, in whatever medium they prefer, and on whatever device they are using. Technical editors must rise to these challenges by focusing on reducing content, becoming involved earlier in product design, and editing for diverse platforms. They must also focus on editing the work of international writers in a global workforce and mastering the standards, guidelines, or best practices for each medium. In this panel presentation, seasoned editors share how their roles have evolved to keep up with changes in the workplace and industry.

What Technical Editors Can Learn from Advisors, Jo Mackiewicz, Auburn University

In the realm of social media, Advisors voluntarily perform a role similar to that of a technical editor. Epinions Advisors are charged with helping product reviewers improve the helpfulness of their reviews. To carry out this charge, Advisors comment on reviews, using politeness to suggest ways that reviewers can revise and update their reviews.

In this presentation, Mackiewicz discuss her study of 142 Epinions Advisor comments on 105 product reviews. In the study, she examined the level of edit (e.g., language, substantive, format) at which Advisors addressed updated and non-updated reviews. Then, she outlined ways that technical editors, like Advisors, might use politeness to construct feedback that initiates writers into discourse-community practices and motivates them to improve the documents that they produce.

Research in Technical Editing: Why Bother? How Can You Help? Closing Remarks, Angela Eaton

This presentation will review the methods that have been used in technical editing studies, and it will trace technical editing research trends. Suggestions for how practitioners might conduct their own research or contribute to the research of others will be provided. This session—and the conference—will end with a discussion period, so that attendees may contribute their perspectives about where they would like editing research to go.