For technical editors, our work varies greatly in scope. One day we might have an assignment editing a user manual for a home appliance, while the next day we’re editing a book chapter in the biological sciences. It could be argued that our field doesn’t have a cohesive definition of what we do, though neither does the greater field of technical communication, and part of that is because as the content of the fields we edit and the technologies we use to edit are evolving, so does our scope of work and our editing processes. This is a large part of why I’m drawn to the field of technical editing. I love that technical editing is an instructive career. I enjoy editing many kinds of texts; learning from subject matter experts in the sciences, technology, and instructions on processes; and evolving in my process as an editor when I approach a text.

I’ve always found editing to be a worthy calling, because I believe that readability and accessibility of language is the duty of a writer or editor. As a 14-year-old, I found that I was constantly tripping over the grammar and syntax in my school’s sports newsletter. I called our director and asked him if he’d give me the chance to edit it, and he happily gave me the job. Having taken grammar in school the year before, I believed it was my job to “fix” any “mistakes” I found; that is, I wanted to correct what wasn’t adhering to the standards I’d learned in school. I took on some other editing duties in school and at my local library in high school, later pursuing journalism in college and becoming my dorm’s designated writing tutor and resident editor.

It wasn’t until my second year of my master’s program when a professor, Dr. Edward Rocklin, introduced the question of “What does ‘X’ do?” in terms of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Realizing that this question could be applied as a teaching tool to writing and editing as well, I began using it with students I tutored in the university writing center to help them think through the purpose and effect of word choice, paragraph placement, comma use, and other parts of structure, language, and punctuation. This gave me a more rhetorical understanding of language, knowing that editing is about intentionality, effectiveness, readability, and accessibility rather than prescriptive “correctness.” In pursuing my Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University, my first course in technical editing showed me that my varied, random experiences as an editor didn’t make me a haphazard editor; instead, I realized that editors do lots of types of editing throughout their careers, though many specialize, and with technical editing, I could work with a wide range of scientific and technical material while applying the principles of editing I was learning to help rectify miscommunication and create more meaningful, helpful, and, often, straightforward documents. I worked on several projects in my technical editing class, including editing a book chapter for an ESL author, editing advertising materials for a small non-profit, and a co-authored presentation titled “Everything (And We Mean Everything) We Know about Editing: A Review of Contemporary Research Studies in Technical Editing” for the Society for Technical Communication’s Technical Editing Virtual Conference in October 2012. For the past four years, I have taught writing courses as a lecturer for the English department at Chapman University and recently developed and taught Chapman’s first technical writing course in spring 2015, in which we spend a significant time on technical editing. Starting in fall 2015, I will also be working as an editorial assistant responsible for copyediting for STC’s Technical Communication. These experiences thus culminated in my desire to take on my biggest project in technical editing so far: my dissertation, which focuses on the effectiveness of editing grant proposals.

My dissertation project will analyze the benefits of technical editing through the lens of grant proposals. Specifically, I will as 1) Does editing improve a grant proposal’s chance of acceptance?, and 2) What editing process is most likely to get a grant proposal accepted when there are only 30 minutes available for editing?

In the published research of technical editing, studies have mainly focused on technical editing in the disciplines, editors’ general practices and philosophies, editors’ processes, profession- and job-related issues, the author-editor relationship, errors, and other various practices. However, no studies have been published that prove technical editing actually “works” or demonstrates an element of “success.” One way to quantify this is by the study of acceptances of grant proposals and the edits that made them successful.

For my research, I plan to acquire access to actual grant proposals for content analysis. I am specifically interested in what the reviewers value and which edits are most crucial to a grant proposal’s acceptance, which I will study through a comparison of drafts with reviewer feedback and edits from volunteer editors.

I also want to investigate which types of technical editing are most efficient under time constraints for improving the chance of a grant proposal’s acceptance. Editors, especially technical editors, often find themselves in situations that call for a quick turnaround on a manuscript, so this research question mirrors current realities in the profession. For instance, if a document has 30 minutes to be edited, will it have a better chance of acceptance if it is edited comprehensively or copy edited? Which document do the reviewers prefer and what changes were made?

The goal of this research is to quantify the benefits of editing, which will assist editors in establishing the need for their services as both a way to profit economically as well as to improve the communication practices of clients and users of everyday documentation. Additionally, it will help academics and practitioners who apply for grant funding to understand the intrinsic value of technical editing and how it can benefit their grant applications for a greater chance of acceptance.

I am honored to be the recipient of the 2015 Diane Feldman Technical Editing Graduate Scholarship, and this award will enable me to finish my dissertation research and writing in order to graduate in May 2016.