rewrite-edit My role as an editor

One perspective on the "technical editor" role. Five things I do as editor for Technically We Write.

The field of technical communication is wide, and there are many different roles in the field. One role I fill at Technically We Write is technical editor. As editor, I respond to article submissions, work with contributors, and publish articles on the website.

The role of "website editor" probably varies depending on the website. If you poll a dozen different websites, you are likely to get a dozen different definitions of what role the "editor" fills. I wanted to share my definition of "editor" by sharing five things I do as editor for Technically We Write:

1. Reply to queries about the website

We went live with Technically We Write in mid-May 2023. In the last few weeks, we have published at least one article every day, on a range of topics including Using Whisper for voice recognition, A gentle introduction to HTML, What's inside an EPUB, and Styles in a word processor.

New writers are sometimes unsure if their article idea would be a good fit for Technically We Write, so I often respond to email questions from people who are interested in writing an article. Most email questions are about ideation. A common question is "I'm thinking about writing an article about X. Would you be interested?" The answer is almost always "Yes!"

Technically We Write is about technical writing, technical editing, usability, UX, tools, and anything that you can put under the "technical communication" umbrella. There are many different ways to contribute an article to the website.

2. Work with contributors

When a new contributor decides to write an article for the website, their first question is usually about focus: How can they expand a brief idea into a 500 to 800 word article, or how can they narrow a large idea to something more "bite sized" for the website.

For example, a writer might suggest an article that involves several big steps, such as an article about how to set up a new website using Wordpress, including creating the theme, defining a workflow, and entering articles. That's probably too much for a single article; it needs some focus.

However, that idea would make for four great articles in a series about using Wordpress: How to set up a new Wordpress website, how to create a Wordpress theme, how to define a Wordpress workflow, and how to write an article with Wordpress. If you have an idea that you want to write about but it turns out to be too big for one article, consider a similar way to break it up into a series of articles.

3. Edit article submissions

Once a writer submits an article, the next step is editing it. This is what most people consider the "editor" role for a website, but it is only one part of the job. When I edit articles for Technically We Write, I usually focus on just a few things: spelling and grammar, consistency, and flow.

Spelling and grammar is usually about ensuring words are spelled correctly, such as Americanized spelling. (Technically We Write is based in the US, so we use American spelling.) For grammar, I watch for any odd phrases or passive voice; for example, "Passive voice should never be used by you."

Edits for consistency usually mean I look for a single "voice" in an article. For example, an author might start with a more "formal" voice early in an article, only to later adopt a more "conversational" tone later on.

Editing for flow typically involves reading the draft article and noting if all the steps seem in the right order, such as in a "how-to" description of steps. In the few instances where I've made edits for flow, the solution is usually to move a paragraph before another one.

Edits are usually small. If I have any larger changes or other concerns from the review, I will respond back to the author so we can discuss the article over email.

4. Publish articles on the website

Once an article has completed the "edit" stage, my next step is to enter the article into our publication system. Technically We Write currently uses a static website generation system with an automatic publication schedule. I enter new articles and queue them to run in the next available date, usually within a week. I'll also share the "Preview" link with the author, in case we need to roll back any edits.

We publish new articles on the website every day. We try to save fun topics to run on the weekend.

5. Recognize authors and articles

Technically We Write is a community of writers, and community means we work together. An important part of that is recognition.

When we publish new articles on the website, I share them on social media. Right now, we don't have an official social media account, so I share the articles on my personal LinkedIn account.

I love that much of my role as editor for Technically We Write is working with amazing people. I love the interactions with people who want to share their story with us, and I am grateful for the community we have already grown. I look forward to growing that community. Thank you to everyone who has written with us or responded to an interview. We want to hear from you!