Defining Technical Editing

What do technical editors do?

The following definitions are taken from Suzan Flanagan’s chapter “The Current State of Technical Editing Research and the Open Questions.”

Technology-Based Definitions

Coggin & Porter (1993)Editing: “the process of modifying text to prepare it for publication; may involve several types of edits from substantive revision to minor proofreading” (p. 233).
Technical Editing: a type of editing that involves technical and scientific content, technical accuracy, and consultation with subject-matter experts.
Rude & Eaton (2011)Editing: the process of making text “complete, accurate, correct, comprehensible, usable, and appropriate for the readers” (p. 8).
Technical Editing: involves subject matter that requires specialized expertise and/or subject matter that requires the editor to “analyze, explain, interpret, inform, or instruct” (p. 11).
Amare, Nowlin, & Weber (2011)Technical Editing: the process of communicating complex information to audiences in understandable terms.
These authors define “technical editing” as editing performed on a specific type of text.

Rhetoric-Based Definitions

Greenberg (2010)Editing: “a decision-making process, usually within the framework of a professional practice, which aims to select, shape, and link content … to help deliver the meaning and significance of the work to its audience” (p. 9).
Tarutz (1992)Technical Editing: includes “any specialized subject that addresses a specific audience, has its own jargon, and whose approach is objective” (p. 4).
These authors define “technical editing” in relationship to a specific audience, purpose, and context.

Actor- and Activity-Based Definitions

Murphy (2010)Technical Editing: “the planning, analysis, restructuring, and language changes made to other people’s technological or scientific documents in order to make them more useful and accurate for their intended audiences” (p. 1).
This author defines “technical editing” according to the actors and the activities performed.