Before you jump the gun let me clarify, I am not talking about all Software Engineers. I am talking about those Software Engineers who have a flair for writing and who want to shift base to technical writing. I am neither in any way implying that Technical Writers from other fields are not competent enough to be recruited. My case in point is: when a Software Engineer is rejected for a Technical Writer position for lack of experience. Now that I am done with the clarification part, let me get back to: Why I think a Software engineer’s experience must… Read More »Why hiring a Software Engineer as a Technical Writer is a good idea?
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?
The other day my current maid who is a hard and efficient worker did a real great job of cleaning up my house. I was particularly impressed by the hassle free attitude she has towards her work. After cleaning up my house she came to me and politely asked for a raise. Being super impressed with her work I felt she deserved the raise and happily obliged her.
Now let me rewind to a similar incident that took place a few months earlier when my ex-maid was working. A major cribber, she found fault with everything in my house. “Your kids are too rowdy, they are always throwing away their toys”, “My earlier employer had a neat house, I hardly had to do anything” and so on. Not being used to being reprimanded by my maid, I was shocked by her attitude. It was her job, and I had clearly stated her job description before employing her, why then was she creating such a fuss over the work she willingly took up? Strangely enough she was not willing to quit the job either. After few months of a very uncomfortable employer employee relationship, she suddenly demanded a salary hike hinting at the fact that her lack luster performance was due to her dis-satisfaction with the salary. I politely declined her offer and showed her the door. Asking for a salary hike is OK but there is a way to do that. You cannot justify your below average performance by accusing your employer of not paying you enough, especially when you have discussed and agreed upon the salary beforehand.
I believe that no work on earth is beneath us, we all do what we can do. Just because I aspired to be a CEO of a company, I cannot be disinterested in my humble work as a Software engineer or a Technical Writer. I need to give the respect due to my profession and I have to do that work with utmost dedication almost bordering on devotion. Being a citizen of Gandhi’s nation I wholeheartedly believe in his opinion that “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.”
That said, let’s compare the two scenarios:
- First one proves herself worthy of a raise. Asserts herself without fearing the consequences or doubting her employer. Asks for her rights, politely and respectfully.
- Second one neither shows interest in her work, nor proves her worth. Cribs and insults the employer. Demands a raise assuming that the employer has no other option but to give in to her demands.
What are your top take-away points from these two stories? I would like you to pitch in and state your take away. Meanwhile I’ll state mine:Read More »2 Workplace behavior tips I picked up from my maid