A day in the life of a technical editor

Rohit is the editor in the Language and Content (LnC) team at Tally Solutions Pvt Ltd. He loves the world of language and thoroughly enjoys his job as an editor. He also loves to read, write, travel, and he loves animals!

Rohit Nair

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Would you please "EDI"????

How's the job of a technical writer like? Do you guys ever have fun? Like really?

Well yeah, you're right. Loads and loads of fun — particularly so when you're an editor. Now, we all have to agree that a technical writing editor in a team is perhaps the most annoying — what with all those red marks coming your way? It's especially annoying when a sentence you've written with your heart and soul, and sometimes not with so much heart and soul, is mutilated, distorted, given a tummy tuck, and released as 'Suitably enhanced. - Editor'.

Let's start with a wonderful resume that came our way recently. The application was for the post of a technical writer. A colleague was fascinated by the nature of the resume. This person had nearly two decades of experience. The resume was hugely detailed. The person was very active physically and loved to socialise. The person loved bartending at friends'. The person was a social activist. "Very interesting", we said out loud. "But, why is there nothing about all that experience in technical writing?" Okay, let's give this case a rest. We didn't get the bartender on board. The textual experience in the resume left us delirious, and positively drunk.

Confusing readers is an easy job. Ain't it? And boy is it fun! Sometimes in technical writing, you hate to leave the readers wondering. It's hard, you see. Completeness of information is an absolute must. The three Cs — clarity, consistency, conciseness — have to be kept in mind at all times. You agree? Of course you do. I came across a handiwork of perfect completion recently. Here's a dialogue:

A dialogue between a technical writer's head () and heart ()

: The license key appears, by default.

: This field can be edited. What if the user edits this? No, he won't! Yeah, but he has to be informed.

: Do not edit the license key. It is captured from the version of the product installed in your system.

: But do I have to tell him this? Isn't it too much info? No, no, but you have to avoid confusion. Let me add a note.

: Note: The license key field can be altered. However, if you alter the license key, an error message is displayed.

: Ah, now it's complete. Ready for edit! Woohoo!

We do really have some great souls like these — with only the best intentions. And any evil editor will reject this piece of good intention. Here's an example of an evil editor from the sixteenth century:

It is not uncommon for an editor to be called for meetings where the theme, design, and the overall look of an application is discussed. Those are places where you can really tell what a person is going to look like ten years down the line, as a grandfather. You can see some of them turn grey right there!

A conversation between two writers ( and ), a designer (), and an editor ()

: I like the pink and blue combo for the tool bar. Can you make the font white?

(hiding shock): Sure, I'll show you how that looks.

(looking at the designer, mouthing): Are you serious?

: Not so good, right? Try grey and red. Yeah, correct. Hmm...change the colour of the font. Choose something yourself. Something yellowish maybe. Or white?

(wondering): Are we designing for Disneyland?

: Hey, hold on, grey-red looks fine. Just make the font black. It'll look great.

: Yeah, that looks better.

: Grey-red, see? I told you! Font colour doesn't matter.

: Of course it does!

: Okay, red and grey it is.

The poor designer then applies the colours. What transpires is bloodier than the Battle of Plassey. The revolting appearance of the UI has the designer in tears, who then secretly decides to do some homework and work on the appearance — alone.

And now for those insufferable homonyms — a matter of concern for many a colleague of ours. Homonyms are not a blessing. I repeat, homonyms are not a blessing. Except, (expect — such a weed!), accept, quiet, quite (not quite), effect, affect — need I mention more? Wait, can I? I believe these errors are a result of quickness of thought — or at least let's hope so. So it is common to find mistakes such as 'Except the screen' or 'Except and save.'

Some of us believe in the principle of 'I repeat' 'I repeat'. I repeat, some of us believe in the principle of 'I repeat'. Take, for example, 'In the Name field, enter Name' or 'In the Enter the PINCODE field, enter the pincode' or 'Press View Bank Reconciliation Screen button to view the Bank Reconciliation screen'. Okay. You're right, that chair you saw flying across the skies this morning did land on one of our heads.

And finally, the insanity that arrives in the form of emails. I recently received communication about a shared folder. The message was that the system was triggering an email whenever the folder was downloaded. No, that is not where it ends. They convinced me that they were 'working out' to resolve the issue. Okay, if you say so! I suppose it is important to build those muscles to resolve these 'weighty' issues. And then the constant flow of mails that request me to 'edi' their documents. Sure, Sir, can you gift me a 'T' in return?

Editing sure is fun. It is important, however, to maintain a level of sanity, lest you want to pull at your hair and run out screaming into the night, or pop a million pills and then burp toxic gases into the air. It is also important to ideate with your editor and make life easier for both of us. It is a good idea to keep a tab on your own writing, watch the number and nature of review comments, observe patterns, and work on your writing skills.

And then an editor will accept your work — with pleasure. Oh wait, or is it expect your work or except your work?

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Acknowledgements

The cartoons are by Suganya S.

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A day in the life of a technical editor

Written by Rohit Nair. Narrated by Nibu Thomas.

The narrator, Nibu Thomas, works with the technical publications team at GT Nexus, an Infor company. He's passionate about communications of any kind, and likes to think that the funny bone somewhere in his head has helped him stay out of trouble. In his attempts to think outside the box, he might have inadvertently opened a few. Pandora, especially, is still livid. He has many interests, but most of them are unprintable. Yes, even in an online edition.