Nine Steps to Improve Technical Editing Skills

Guest blog by Francis Bao, STC Chicago.

Technical writers always want their work to be recognized by the audience. Technical writing and editing skills are highly associated with each other. Effective editing will help make bad writing good and good writing becomes even better. Experienced editing will catch both factual and grammatical errors in copy before it is published, preventing  embarrassment, additional costs, and possible legal action. To become an experienced editor, here are some steps to improve your editing skills.

Step 1. Develop a mastery of the English language

It is very important for technical editors to learn and understand the basic rules of the language, such as sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Technical editors also need to develop advanced skills for editing the style and context of technical writing work.

Step 2. Know the purpose of the work you are editing

Technical editors need to define the goal of a writing work or the nature of its content in order to determine what kind of audience the writing is trying to focus on. Once the editors understand the purpose of the writing, they will be able to correct problems and help technical writers create sharp-looking documents.

Step 3. Familiarize yourself with the necessary style

Each type of technical writing has different standards and expectations that the piece must conform to. For example, user manuals such as hardware guides, software guides, and product operational manuals are written in an instructional style. These documents teach users how to operate technical products. Informative materials such as scientific testing reports, annual reports, and organizational manuals are produced in a factual style. They provide information of function on products or organizations to the public. Promotional materials such as advertising flyers, product campaign pamphlets, and marketing brochures are designed in a commercial style. They help the sales department of a corporation promote and sell its products and services.

Step 4. Have the confidence to spot and fix errors

An experienced technical editor should have the judgment to search not only for syntax errors, but also for logical mistakes, and to fix them in a correct way. Many companies use technical documents to market their technologies; any illogical error in the content will cause negative effects to these companies. Good editors will help the organizations increase their profits.

Step 5. Give yourself time to do the job right

Rushing to edit a piece of writing work will cause missed errors and make the document look unprofessional. Technical editing experts have provided several guidelines to create a sharp-looking document. They include putting away writing for a day, reading it out loud, using text-to-speak program, building a checklist of writers’ most common mistakes, customizing spell check, and reading back to front, bottom to top, right to left.

Step 6. Read it through once for comprehension

Technical content always contains vital information on technologies and other important technical elements. Technical editors should read documents carefully before start editing to understand all important information. This will lead the editing process in a positive direction and avoid major editing flaws.

Step 7. Re-read each sentence individually, making corrections as needed

Editors should make sure a sentence states its meaning clearly, using the right words, and ensure that the sentence is in the right place in the paragraph. They need to eliminate redundancy by deleting duplicate or unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs. Also they should check relevant facts and correct misspellings, syntax errors, incorrect punctuation, and superfluous emphasis.

Step 8. Review the work again by paragraph or section

Technical editors should ensure the clarity of a writing work by reviewing the content thoroughly. A well-edited document will help the audience locate technical information from paragraphs or sections without difficulty.

Step 9. Run an electronic spell check

Technical editors should use the spell check to catch typo errors that they may have missed. An electronic spell check will be able to catch misspelled words, but it cannot catch correctly spelled words used incorrectly.

These guidelines provide great value to editors to help improve their editing skills. Technical editors and writers should work together to produce well polished documents that will assist corporations to market their products and also will help the audience learn about today’s new technologies.

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