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Editing: It's not as easy as it looks

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Presented at the ASTC(NSW) 2012 annual conference. Editing for technical communicators, focusing on text, user interface text, etc. and some add-ins for Microsoft Word that make the process easier.

Presented at the ASTC(NSW) 2012 annual conference. Editing for technical communicators, focusing on text, user interface text, etc. and some add-ins for Microsoft Word that make the process easier.

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  • 1. Twitter hashtags: @cybertext @astcnsw EDITING: It’s not as easy as it looksNovember 2012 Rhonda Bracey
  • 2. It’s not as easy as it looks…2 “Editing is just as difficult as writing. Probably even more difficult. Editing is a balancing act [between] cleaning up a piece of writing while keeping [it] true to its intentions.” From: http://scottnesbitt.net/weblog/2010/02/22/editing-the-secret-to-good-writing/ © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 3. 3 Role of the editor Takeaways:  Editors assist the writer/developer by fixing errors and/or suggesting improvements  Editors make the content easier for the reader to understand/navigate“An editor’s true value is in enhancing and improving content—notbeing the grammar police!” (Anku Jain, Adobe Systems, WritersUA Conference, March 2012) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 4. Three Cs of communication4 Clarity Reduce Consistency CONFUSION Conciseness © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 5. What can you edit?5 Informational, instructional, e guidelines, reports, fact sheets, quick reference ducational communications cards, operating manuals, training materials… Marketing communications website, white papers, feature lists, blog posts, press releases, social media profiles/content… Internal policies/procedures employee handbooks, disaster recovery plans, environmental management plans… Developer/Business Analyst documentation specifications, project plans… User assistance online Help, user interface text, error messages, screencasts… … in fact, ANY written material for your internal and external customers! © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 6. Example: In the UI, an editor can identify…6 Incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation Unclear or potentially misunderstood user prompts and error messages Illogical task flows Inconsistently labelled buttons, icons, fields, dialog boxes Inconsistently placed buttons, icons, fields, dialog boxes Required or unnecessary tasks, fields, dialog boxes Inconsistencies between dialog boxes (Adapted from: http://writeorrevisedaily.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/add-value-to-gui-design/) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 7. 7 Types of editing Takeaways:  Rules-based (aka copy editing)  Analysis-based (aka content editing or substantive editing)  Technical editing© CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 8. ‘Rules-based’ editing8  Uses internal/external standards and guidelines to make the content correct, consistent, accurate, and complete; e.g.:  spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, hyphenation  adherence to legal requirements (e.g. copyright, trademarks)  design consistency (e.g. typography, layout)  Editor’s role: Fix (Adapted from Jean Weber: http://techwhirl.com/articles/working-with-a-technical-editor/) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 9. But…9 Rules-based editing is not enough—the content still may be inappropriate for the intended audience © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 10. ‘Analysis-based’ editing10  Evaluates content to make it more functional and appropriate for its readers  Looks at concept, content, organisation, flow, style  Editor’s role: Suggest improvements rather than make corrections (Adapted from Jean Weber: http://techwhirl.com/articles/working-with-a-technical-editor/) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 11. Technical editing: Software/hardware11  Involves testing every step of every procedure in the UA/Help against the software/hardware product  Must suspend existing knowledge of product and follow documented steps exactly  Can take a LOT of time for a complex product  Editor’s role: Report mismatches, inaccuracies to author/developer for correction © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 12. Technical editing: Domain knowledge12  Involves verifying all facts, statements made, analyses, citations/references, etc.  Requires detailed existing knowledge of the domain; often done by subject matter experts  Can take a LOT of time  Editor’s role: Report mismatches, inaccuracies, inconsistencies to author for correction © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 13. 13 Editing tasks Takeaways:  Editing comprises many tasks—several passes are required to cover everything  Editing is tiring—take regular breaks © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 14. It’s not a one-off task14  Several passes—one for each group of elements (e.g. spelling, layout, capitalisation, pun ctuation, legal, styles, abbreviation s…)  Tackle one or only a few issues at a time  Editing is tiring—take breaks, refocus your eyes © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 15. Example copy editing tasks15 Check for: Spelling errors, typos Duplicated words Missing words Incorrect/missing punctuation Grammatical errors (e.g. subject/verb mismatch) Poor formatting © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 16. Example content editing tasks16 Check for: Overall logic/structure; logical flow within/btwn sentences/paragraphs Consistent terminology Consistent tense Short sentences/paragraphs Active voice, where possible Parallel structure Redundant/unnecessary words © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 17. Example…17 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 18. Edits showing tracked changes18 Issues:  Shall vs will (delete word if activity already occurring)  Parallel structure: -ing verbs  Unnecessary words © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 19. Dialog boxes: example19 Issues:  Mostly title case (readability)  Access keys don’t work in tabs or items (usability)  Excess words (readability) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 20. Installation messages: examples20 Issues:  Sentence structure (readability)  Unintelligible (readability)  Excess words (readability) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 21. Tighten up!21 Before After Comments …in close …close to… • Proximity is a synonym for nearness, so close proximity to… …near… proximity is redundant. It is simpler to say close to (or even better, or near—and easier for your readers to be specific understand. about the • These terms are very fuzzy. Does close proximity/ distance) close to/near mean 10 cm, 10 m, or 10 km? If you can, be specific as to the distance. The major The major • Often, summarised below (and the following) can systems … are systems … are: be deleted from an intro to a bullet list without summarised affecting meaning. below:(From: http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/tighten-up-your-writing-by-removing-redundantunnecessary-words/) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 22. When editing procedures, check for…22 • Numbered steps in correct order, with sub- Logic and sequence bulleted options (easier to read/skim/scan, understand, navigate) • Speaks directly to/instructs the reader Active voice • Implies ‘you do this’—e.g. Click OK. Serious • List serious consequences—in plain language— before the action (e.g. To delete all photos from consequences your camera, click OK. NOT Click OK to reformat.) Multiple steps in • Each action should have its own step one (Adapted from: http://www.jeanweber.com/newsite/?page_id=44) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 23. 23 But beware of being over-pedantic Perfection is the holy grail, but it is not achievable and should never trump ‘getting it done’ © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 24. 24 Checklists and style sheets Takeaways:  Use checklists and style sheets—you can’t remember to check everything, every time  Style sheets help maintain consistency © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 25. Checklists25  Use checklists to avoid missing anything  Share them with your team so they know what you do/look for © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 26. Style sheets26  Use a style sheet to document decisions that:  differ from your style guide authority (e.g. Australian Style Manual, Chicago Manual of Style, Microsoft Manual of Style)  are unique to your product/company  Very useful for product- /company-specific terminology  e.g. NetForms, Netforms, Net Forms, Net forms…  Help maintain consistency of spelling, capitalisation, hyphenation, punctuation, etc.  Detail treatment of specific types of elements—dialog box names, field names, menu paths, user-entered data, species names, cited titles, etc. © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 27. Example corporate style guide27 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 28. Example editorial style sheet28 From: Snooks & Co. Style Manual for authors editors and printers. 6th ed. Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. (p265) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 29. 29 Tools and resources Takeaways:  Tools may be useful, but …  Your eyes and brain are the best tools you have! © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 30. About Word add-ins30  Many specialist editing tools are add-ins for Word only  May have to publish content to Word, run the tool, then either republish changed Word file to the required output OR make suggested changes in authoring tool  May be too hard! Use trial versions to see if worth it © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 31. StyleWriter: Word add-in31  Strengths: grammar, sentence structure, excellent Help/writing guide  From: http://editorsoftware.com; US$150 © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 32. PerfectIt: Word add-in32  Strengths: punctuation, abb reviation inconsistencies  From: http://intelligent editing.com; US$99 pro; free web option © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 33. EditTools: Word add-in33  Strengths: time- saving macros; e.g. wildcard find/replace, custom lists of words to ignore  From: http://wordsnsync. com; US$69 pro © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 34. AP StyleGuard: Word add-in34  Strengths: checks against Associated Press (US) style  From: http://www.apstylebook.com/?do= product&pid=style-guard; from US$50 per user (annual subs) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 35. Other35  Spelling and grammar checkers  Track Changes, Comments, AutoCorrect, Find/Replace (Word)  PDF comments/markup (Acrobat)  HTML spellcheckers, link checkers, validators (e.g. CSE HTML Validator; http://htmlvalidator.com)  Style guides (general and specialist)  Dictionaries, glossaries (general and specialist) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 36. “Don’t uninstall your brain”36 "...tools can become crutches if they supplant rather than supplement human judgment. Spell-checking and grammar-checking programs ... and similar innovations to come will never replace the writer’s own critical eye (or an objective second opinion)... ...there is some evidence that using [tools] can cause [your] editing skills to deteriorate. Not only that, but less skilful writers can over rely on such tools, accept their sometimes flawed corrections without question, and otherwise ignore their shortcomings... ... By all means, buy [product] if it suits your needs. But don’t uninstall your brain." (From: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ap-styleguard-and-the-death-of-editing/) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 37. Helpful links37  Editing tips, techniques and checklists: http://www.jeanweber.com/newsite/?page_id=5  Working with a technical editor: http://techwhirl.com/articles/working-with-a- technical-editor/  User Interface Text: http://www.cybertext.com.au/10435.htm (slides from presentation at WritersUA Conference, 2012) © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012
  • 38. 38 Thank you… Any questions? Contact me:  rhonda.bracey@cybertext.com.au  http://www.cybertext.com.au  http://cybertext.wordpress.com  Twitter: @cybertext © CyberText Consulting Pty Ltd November 2012

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