Columns May/June 2022

Why Editing Will Always Matter

By Michelle Corbin | STC Fellow

Four years ago, I introduced you to my Editing Matters column. I was so thankful to get to share with you my passion for technical editing and try to explain all the reasons why the craft of technical editing matters. This article will be my last Editing Matters column, and I will see if I can explain why I believe that editing will always matter.

Without editing of all types,1 information is often disorganized, unclear, or incorrect making it harder for readers to find, understand, and use that information. Without editing of all types, typos and grammatical errors add up and erode the confidence that readers have in the information (and can potentially lead to legal troubles). Without editing of all types, on more than just the words,2 information is just information and is not accurate, complete, usable technical communication.

Editing is Teaching, Coaching, and Mentoring

One of my favorite movies as a young adult was Dead Poets Society.3 Mr. Keating is an English teacher who inspires his students through unorthodox teaching methods. I definitely see editors as teachers, using orthodox (and unorthodox) teaching methods to teach writers and SMEs how to be better writers and how to communicate effectively through our editing comments but also through our interactions on the team. A team will always be better for having someone being the advocate for the users4, being the arbiter of quality,5 and mentoring and coaching the team6 from start to finish.

Editing is Behind the Scenes

One of my favorite movies from my childhood (OK, and as an adult, too, if I’m being honest) was The Wizard of Oz.7 One of the best quotes of the movie is, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” As editors, we are often seen as “the great and powerful” editor (I’d like to think so anyway) working “behind the curtain,” applying the rules and conventions8 of the style guide, making sure everyone on the team is being consistent with their words and avoiding gobbledygook,9 all while keeping the users at the forefront of our minds.10

Editing is Invisible

One of my favorite TV shows these days is Penn & Teller Fool Us,11 which is a magic competition show where magicians try to fool the master magicians, Penn & Teller. My favorite magic tricks are the up-close sleight-of-hand tricks, where so much is invisible to the untrained eye. Editors are like magicians, where the craft of editing, of editing more than just words,2 of editing to improve SEO,12 is truly invisible to the users.

In the End…

I have had so much fun writing this column, coming up with punny headings and riffing on movies and songs. However, the time has come for me to stop repeating myself (I think I only mentioned that editing is quality assurance or that editors are the arbiters of quality eight or so times in the last four years). I know that whether you are editing your own writing, editing the writing of SMEs, or editing the writing of other technical writers,13 you all get it — that editing will always matter because quality will always matter.

References
  1. Corbin, M. 2021. “What Type of Editor are You?” Intercom 68, no. 5(September/October): 38–39
  2. Corbin, M. 2020. “Editing More than Words.” Intercom 67 no. 1(January/February): 29–30
  3. “Dead Poets Society.” Wikipedia. Retrieved on 12 March 12, 2022 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Poets_Society.
  4. Corbin, M. 2020. “Technical Editors as Advocates.” Intercom 66, no. 8(December): 28–29
  5. Corbin, M. 2018. “We are the (Quality) Champions.” Intercom 65, no. 5(September). 27–28
  6. Corbin, M. 2022. “Technical Editing as Teaching.” Intercom 69, no. 1(January/February): 50
  7. “The Wizard of Oz (1939 film).” Wikipedia. Accessed 12 March 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_(1939_film).
  8. Corbin, M. 2020. “Playing by the Rules.” Intercom 67, no. 3(May/June): 32
  9. Corbin, M. 2019. “One Reader’s Gobbledygook Is Another Reader’s Technical Terminology.” Intercom 66, no. 6(October): 33–34
  10. Corbin, M. 2018. “It Depends….” Intercom 65, no. 6 (October): 27
  11. “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” Wikipedia. Accessed 12 March 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_%26_Teller:_Fool_Us.
  12. Corbin, M. 2020. “SEO for Editors.” Intercom 67, no. 5(September): 33
  13. Corbin, M. 2019. “Who Are You Editing For?” Intercom 66, no. 4(July/August): 39–40

MICHELLE CORBIN covers matters (topics) about editing that matter (are of consequence) to communicators of all kinds. It has been my honor to write about the ins and outs of editing and what you can do to improve the quality of your content. I may or may not continue to post about editing matters sharing to my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellelcorbin/.

 

 


 

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