Technical editing involves reviewing text written on a technical topic, and identifying errors related to the use of language in general or adherence to a specific style guide.
Technical editing may include any of the following: correction of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, mistyping, incorrect punctuation, inconsistencies in usages, poorly structured sentences, wrong scientific terms, wrong units and dimensions, inconsistency in significant figures, technical ambivalence, technical disambiguation, correction of statements conflicting with general scientific knowledge, correction of synopsis, content, index, headings and subheadings, correcting data and chart presentation in a research paper or report, correcting errors in citations.
This activity ensures that documentation is of good quality. In large companies, experienced writers are dedicated to the technical editing function; in organizations that cannot afford dedicated editors, experienced writers typically peer-edit text produced by their relatively less experienced colleagues.
It helps if the technical editor is familiar with the subject being edited, but that is not always essential. The “technical” knowledge that an editor gains over time while working on a particular product or technology does give the editor an edge over another who has just started editing content related to that product or technology. In the long run, however, the skills that really matter are attention to detail, the ability to sustain focus while working through lengthy pieces of text on complex topics, tact in dealing with writers, and excellent communication skills.
Revising is also another form of editing. It is looking for awkward sentences, run-on sentences, and in general parts of the paper that don’t make sense to the editor. Usually the writer revises his/her copy before turning it in.
A number of standards and tools (such as XML editors) have been elaborated for the editing of technical documents such as
- Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA).
Businesses and nonprofit organizations often use editors, who may be employees of a company, individual contractors working onsite at a client’s office or independently offsite, or employees or partners in a specialized copywriting agency. Working with writers inside or outside the business, such editors provide services such as proofreading, copy editing, line editing, developmental editing, editing for search engine optimization (SEO), etc..