You have a new job and an exciting career ahead. You have dreams of being one of the most accomplished Technical Writers around. You wait for your first task and here your manager gives you a huge word document to edit. What do you do? Edit, of course you say, but a teeny voice in you is nagging you with: “How do I begin?” “What if I miss something?” “Why am I given a document to edit when all I want to do is write?” type of questions.Do you hit the panic button or do you just jump in to do the task? My suggestion: “Have a Plan”. You can refer my earlier blog on the “The Beginners guide to Reviewing and Editing” to know more about planning your task and making a good job of it.
For now let us focus on the key points to consider when you edit. Being a good editor is like passing the litmus test to become a good writer. You need to be a good critic to write good articles and editing teaches you to be that critic. It is less likely that you will be trained to edit, you will definitely be expected to show your ‘On the job’ competency and ‘Learning curve’.
The following general guidelines can be followed to edit any Word document:
- Enable ‘Track Changes’: Never forget to do that. You would not want your feedback to be misunderstood or worse ignored because it was not tracked properly. Any changes you do must be recorded and must be available as feedback for the author.
- Ensure the Word document settings are set to reflect your name as the Reviewer. It is especially useful when you are adding comments for the author(more about adding comments in further steps). Click on File tab -> Options. Ensure your name is reflected under the ‘User Name’ Text box. Input relevant initials.
- Add comments: in relevant places to elaborate on the mistakes you have found. Sometimes authors might find it difficult to understand their own mistakes. They might need more clarity and explanation. Adding comments is a good way to ensure that. Click on ‘New Comment’ in the Review section of Word to add comments.
- Review in Passes: Always do the Review in more than one pass. Do not attempt to finish your editing in a single pass. Its hardly ever efficient. The more numbers of times you read through the document the more mistakes you will find. Do a formatting check in the first pass. Technical Review in the second pass and so on.
Note: There are many kinds of editing; this post focuses on editing a word document containing Technical information related to the Software field. Treat it as a general thumb rule that can be modified to suit your editing needs.
Note: Remember to stick to your timelines , more than 5 passes is not only impractical but also unnecessary.
Checklist for Editing
Reviewing and Editing is an important part of the Technical writing process. No writing is complete without it being reviewed and/or edited.
As a novice Technical Writer, my first few tasks were to edit and review documents.My biggest challenge then, was to know the difference between editing and reviewing. You may ask, “is it not self-explanatory?” My thought exactly; that is, before I started off reviewing a document, over shot time by editing it, ended up missing my deadline and finally learnt two important lessons.
Lesson number 1: Know the scope of your work
Never start your work without knowing the exact limits of your work. By limits I mean:
- What you can do
- What you need not do but can do if time permits
- What you should not do
People crave for limits. limits are something that gives a logical conclusion to any task. Without limits and restriction no work will ever truly get done.
“What you need not do but can do if time permits?”, is the grey area in the editing and reviewing world. It shows your dedication and the extra bit you want to put in your work. But how far is too far? Trying to find that out is when I learnt my
Lesson number 2: Estimate your work
Define timelines for your work.It gets easier when you know the scope of your work. You will learn more about defining your scope of the work in the following section. When you define timelines it is easier for you to decide on the ‘must do’ factors and ‘can do’ factors. Your work will reflect consistency and quality when you follow the timelines based on your scope of work.
What is Reviewing and Editing?