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Effective Editing of Technical Documents

Francis Bao is an award winning technical writer and translator and is a member of the STC Chicago Chapter . He recently won APEX 2013 Award of Excellence. The category of the award is "Brochures, Manuals & Reports," under health and medical materials.

A highly polished document reflects the professional image of an organization. Technical editing plays a significant role in developing technical documents, such as user manuals, procedure manuals, software guides, organizational brochures, and so on. Think of editing as the big picture of process. It is a crucial part of all technical writing projects. However, I have multiple levels of technical editing, which makes my task challenging.

Level 1 Spec Editing
A Spec edit is a detailed edit that includes format editing and readability checks. Editors determine whether documents satisfy all the macro requirements specified in the documentation plan.
  • Format Check Technical editors make sure that a document contains correct chapters, sections, page numbers, and a glossary, as required. A technical editor also determines whether the document includes a table of content, index, list of figures and tables, and copyright information.
  • Readability Check Technical editors determine whether the language and readability level are appropriate for the specific audience.

Level 2 Style Editing
Technical Editors determine whether the writer has used the abbreviations, acronyms, and stylistic conventions specified in corporate or client guidelines.
  • Spell out acronyms when they appear in the document for the first time.
  • Eliminate jargon.
  • Verify that figures and table captions are in the corporate style.
  • Verify that font family, font size, and color palette is correct.
  • Verify that the language is free of gender bias.

Level 3 Comprehensibility Editing
This type of editing answers a question: Is the content in the document used in a logical, easy-to-understand sequence? Technical Editors focus on the logical flow of information. They can help a writer determine whether the document meets the standards for the way words form phrases, phrases form sentences, sentences form paragraphs, and paragraphs compose sections.

Level 4 Copy Editing
Technical editors check grammatical errors as well as typos in the technical documents. Editors also check whether individual sentences are well formed. In a scientific or a technical document, write sentences in a short and straight-forward manner. Technical editors correct sentences that are too long for the reader to comprehend on first reading. Long sentences contain complex clauses that can confuse readers who are trying to understand technical information.

Technical editing affects the style of writing in technical communications. Technical editors can use these tips about types of edits to produce professional technical documents. Because these stylistic enhancements allow readers to understand the content more easily, the changes also have an impact on the quality of technical content.


Page last modified on Tuesday, October 01, 2013 05:31:30pm EDT
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