David Farbey on editing at TCUK12

In his session Letters From The Editor, David Farbey talked about what editors do, what they can do and what they can do better.

What editors do

Basically, it is the job of editors to mediate relationships. They mediate the relationships between the writers, their content, their audience and their organization (such as a company or institution).

More specifically, they still do much of what Robert Van Buren and Mary Fran Buehler laid out in their seminal booklet Levels of Edit of 1980 (a PDF version is available online). Mind you, much has changed since, but many of the basic principles still apply. So David took his cue from the 9 levels of edit to propose 3 classes of edit today:

  • The policy edit is for coordination and planning. It ensures that the content is appropriate to the organization and its audience, that it complies with the organization‘s policies and strategies.
  • The copy edit handles all the technical issues of content, from spelling and punctuation to formatting and textual integrity. It ensures that the text is functionally correct and clear.
  • The developmental edit addresses the content itself in the last and most important stage. It ensures that the language is comprehensible and presents the text’s substance appropriately and clearly, whether it is a concept or a procedure. (This is not the same as a content review! A subject-matter expert reviews whether content is correct and complete, while a developmental editor ensures that such content is presented in clear and comprehensible language.)

 All three classes of edit occur at the same stage in the content workflow:

  1. Policy edit: Author and editor plan content production.
  2. Author writes content.
  3. Subject-matter expert reviews content.
  4. Author corrects content according to review.
  5. Developmental edit: Editor edits content.
  6. Author corrects content according to edit.
  7. Copy edit: Editor proofreads content.

Advice for editors

  • Check the text and the publication, not the product or the facts that are described in the text, that’s the task of the reviewing subject-matter expert.
  • Offer constructive criticism, don’t evaluate or grade the text.
  • Mentor the writer, if necessary, don’t manage the writer. If you are his or her manager, put on your editing hat, not your managing hat.
  • Create and apply guidelines and policies:
    • Create and comply with a corporate style guide as a searchable collective memory to guide the work of writers and editors alike.
    • Agree on who has the last word.
  • When editing topics in structured authoring:
    • Edit in chunks
    • Add a step in the workflow before the copy edit: Editor or writer compiles document
  • When editing in an agile environment:
    • Consider when a content item is shippable
    • Consider when the document as a whole is shippable
    • Change the workflow so steps 2. through 4. above become: Write and review in sprint.

On being a tech comm influencer

MindTouch’s list of The 400 Most Influential in #Techcomm and #ContentStrategy does a great job of invigorating our profession, but has a few problems as well.

[This blog post is victim to my regular blogging schedule: It was written before, but published after David Farbey’s more elaborate post where all the action is in the comments and Aaron from MindTouch replies to some of the issues with the list!]

Here’s my play-by-play recap of my various reactions to the list:

  1. Hope — “Did I make the top 50?”
  2. Marvel — “Wow, look at the people at the top, they’re my #techcomm heroes, my personal all-star list!”
  3. Reality check — I came in at no. 69.
  4. Contentment — “Yeah, that’s a fair ranking, given my adjacent fellow influencers…” 🙂
  5. Wonder I — “‘Influencer’? Is that even a word?”
  6. Wonder II — “How did they come up with this ranking?” The accompanying process post isn’t none too clear how the ranking came about. MindTouch told me: “Yes, the social analysis tool used currently primarily analyzes twitter, but blogs also are a factor.”
  7. Joy — “I can totally extend my network and add people I’m not following yet!”
  8. Doubt — “Many people on the list don’t tweet a lot or have practically stopped months ago. Is it really worth following them (okay, it doesn’t cost anything if they don’t tweet…)?”
  9. Scepticism I — “Maybe the process needs some refinement before it produces a meaningful long tail – or maybe 400 is a bit too long?”
  10. Scepticism II — “Huh, here’s someone tweeting in Spanish – but wait a minute, just about anyone else on the list (myself included) writes in English. Where are the other languages?”

Most Influential Techcomm

On the whole, I think it’s a great service to the profession:

  • It’s galvanizing the community – and I hope it doesn’t alienate anyone (well, except Scott Abel, maybe, who wasn’t on the list – because he deserves the special mention as 2011 Internet Influencer… 😉 )
  • It’s boosted my twitter readership, active & passive, more than any other single event!
  • … and nobody else does something like this.

So thanks, MindTouch!