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April 2006 Technical Writing: Process and Product (5e) Newsletter

From the Front Line

How important is editing in the writing process? How can a writer edit effectively? What are some tips that can benefit students when they serve as peer editors? As an editor at Wireless World and National Geographic magazines, Candice Millard sees herself as the readers advocate. Her job is to make sure that readers understand whatever text she is editing. As Candice states, Because authors invest enormous time and effort in their writing, they often become so attached to their work that they get lost in the details. Ms. Millards job is to be the detached eye, the objective readers point of view. In the writing process, Candices authors are in charge of the prewriting and the writing of their information. Ms. Millards job focuses on How do you peer edit the final stage of the processrevising. To accomplish this goal, she offers without hurting peoples these editorial hints: Start big and get small. To achieve her editors objectivity, Candice says feelings? Candice Millard that she must step back, get the big picture, and then work toward the says that she considers how details. When reading the text, she asks herself whats superfluous, whats confusing, what questions do I have that havent been answered, her comments will affect the and where is clarity needed? writer. She engages in Focus on structure. All writing has a skeletal structure, including a thesis statement, topic sentences, transition, and section headings. These ensure conversation, points out that the writer maintains his or her organizational focus versus casting out whats good, tempers the bad random thoughts. If the text Candice is editing lacks these essentials, she editsadding the thesis, topic sentences, headings, and transition; moving with the positive, and then information in the text to help guide the readers. weaves in required changes. Flesh out the details. Whats a skeleton without flesh? Candices next job is to fill in the holes. Maybe this requires that the writer add anecdotes for interest and detailed information for vividness and clarity. Sometimes, Candices biggest challenge is defining her authors highly technical terminology. When authors depend on jargon, Candice translates the termsat least to make them intelligible, at most to make them interesting. Her job is enhancing, making science and technology palatable to a lay audience. Slice and dice. The opposite goal to adding detail for clarity is deleting text. Candice also must edit out contradictions, weed the irrelevancies, remove the Table of Contents distractions, and excise whatever might ring false. From the Front Practice diplomacy. Candices authors are all experts in their fields. Many of them have spent their entire lives studying a topic, including the habits and habitats of Linea real-world dinosaurs to diatoms, protozoa to predators. When these authors write about what business scenario they love, every word they use is precious to them; every detail is crucial. Candice, Case Study with on the other hand, must cut their text to fit space limitations and to meet a readers assignment limited attention span. Cutting makes people bristle. Teaching Tactics Therefore, when editing, she factors in the human side of writing. She considers focusing on unique how her comments will affect the writer. Instead of thrusting severely edited text on her classroom approaches authors, she first engages in conversation, points out whats good, tempers the bad with Dot.Com Updates with the positive, and then weaves in required changes. Candice, after all, knows that she new online sites isnt just dealing with words; she is working with people. Factoidinteresting Editing, the perfecting stage of the writing process, requires more skill than just facts to update your knowing grammar. For Candice Millard, sculpting the words is all about making text compelling to read. lectures

Editing PracticeNEW! to this issue, grammar workshops

Teaching Tactics
NEW to this issue of TechCom E-notes, weve added an Editing Practice unit. From now on, each months
edition of the newsletter will provide a brief overview of a grammar concern, complete with rules and practice activities. These thumbnail grammar spotlights will focus your students attention on the importance of grammar and allow them to practice editing skills. The Editing Practice activities, none of which should take more than 15 minutes to complete, are a perfect way to begin a class, end a class, or emphasize a key grammatical point during a class. The Editing Practice activities can be completed individually by students or in collaborative teams. We hope you enjoy this new addition to our newsletters!

Whats Important in Technical Writing?

In a recent survey we conducted about types of writing deemed Absolutely Critical and Important, we discovered the following facts:
120 95.6 77.9 77.4 75.7 75.7


100 80



66.7 53.7 35.8 35.6

32.6 22.9

60 40

20 0
E-mail for Official Business Correspondence Informal Reports Formal Reports Letters Brochures and other Marketing Materials Blogs E-mail for Business "Conversations" Proposals Newsletters Memos Meeting Minutes PPt for Reports Websites

The clear winner is e-mail. In fact, in this same survey, employees from such diverse work environments as banking, accounting, engineering, medical research, software development, education, and government stated the following:

Hours Per Week Spent Writing

15 10.3 10 5 0 E-mail Messages Reports Letters Memos Gerson, Steve, Sharon Gerson, and Barbara Shwom. Communicating Successfully in Business: A Survey on Workplace Communication Core Competencies. Prentice Hall Publishing Co: 2005-2006. 4.6 3.3 2.9

Case Study
Writing An E-mail Message You hope to open your own online company. To do so, you need to submit a business plan to a local bank, who will underwrite your financing needs. Before you write your business plan, you have these questions: What licensing is required for your city, county, and state and what bonding is needed to operate your business? What kinds of and how many references do you need? What start-up office equipment and technology do you need? How can you market your company? You hope the banks small business division will answer your questions about approximate costs for office equipment and a marketing budget. To find out, write an e-mail to the banks loan officer, Larry Morrell. His answers will help you prepare your business plan. Include any other details needed to accomplish your goals.

Dot.Com Updates
Check out these sites related to editing tips: LR Communication Systems, Inc.

Literacy Education Online. Purdues Online Writing Lab University of North Carolina Amherst Collegea humorous look at errors

Archived Newsletters!
Want to access past newsletters, saved as PDF files? Go to the following URL:

Editing Practice
Spelling. Its hard to spell correctlyor is that its hard to spell? English includes many words like its and its that
sound alike but are spelled differently. These words are called homonyms . . . and spell check wont help you. Other homonyms that cause confusions include the following (and many more): Examples advice / advise to / too / two their / there accept / except access / excess ensure / insure affect / effect manor / manner passed / past all ready / already loose / lose site / cite incite / insight desert / dessert patients / patience rite / right brake / break loose / lose forth / fourth bare / bear stationery / stationary principal / principle disburse / disperse Solutions Since spell check wont help with these spelling challenges, you have to use your dictionary, be careful when using homonyms, and get help from objective readers. Practice In the following cover letter, find and correct the spelling errors. Dear Ms. Andrews: In response to youre resent request, please find enclosed a proposal for sell of goods. To help you better understand the contents of this proposal, please consider the following key points: Personal: Our principal employees are listed on pages 4-8. We provide you biographical sketches complete with there certifications. All of our employees have past their certifying exams. Guarantees: To insure that you are completely satisfied, we also list on pages 6-9 our warrantees and no-fault policy of customer satisfaction. Hotline: As youll note on page 10, our assistance are on call 24/7. Just dial 1-888-NEWHELP or e-mail us at Pricing: The forth benefit we offer you, of coarse, is low prices. Our sales literature guarantees you a 10% discount off the next purchase if we dont beat any competitors prices. Please see our pricing lists on page 11. Reducing your capitol expenses is our area of expertise. Deadlines: We advice you to check our policy on meeting schedules (page 12). Accept for any change orders you specify, we will meet schedules . . . or reduce our fees by 10%. As you can see, Ms. Andrews, were quiet sincere in our desire to meet and exceed all customer needs. Let us work with you to improve your companies bottom line. As our company motto exclaims, The rite way to due business is the customer way. Please call your sales representative, Sally Smith. She will answer any questions you mite have.