How to be Edited

The key to survive being edited is not to look at the edits.

There is a lot of advice available on how to edit other people’s work, and how to edit your own, but not much on how to be edited by someone else. Here’s some thoughts on how to make it a relatively less agonizing process. The key is, don’t look at the edits, look at the result.

The agony of being edited

I’m nearing the end of having my book edited. I submitted the “final” manuscript a couple of weeks back, and since then my editor and publisher, Richard Hamilton of XML Press, has been copyediting and feeding the result back to me a chapter at a time. Since one of Richard’s stated aims in the copyedit was to trim back the manuscript significantly, I was prepared to this to be a painful process. read more

Readers Express their Purpose in Terms of Tools and their Features

One of the samples of an EPPO topic that I included in my book was a topic from the WordPress Codex on the subject of Using Themes. One of the key properties of an EPPO topic is that it serves a specific and limited purpose. I identified the purpose of this topic as enabling the reader to use themes on their WordPress site.

One of the reviewers objected that the user’s real purpose was not to use themes, but to style their site. I can understand where the criticism comes from. Those of us who favor task orientation in technical communications are quite sensitive to anything that smells of its opposite: feature orientation. We don’t want people to be writing topics on the File Menu, for instance. We want them to focus on things that the reader is trying to do. read more

Dumb vs. Smart Revision

Several readers of my posts on revision have pointed out that content gets revised for many reasons. Peter Fournier suggest a distinction should be made between dumb and smart revision. I’ll attempt to do that here.

An initial distinction between dumb revision and smart revision might be that smart revision adds value and dumb revision does not.

Reducing writer errors

One of the most consistent responses I have received to my posts on revision as waste (Improving First Run Quality, and Revision, Waste, and Evenness) is some variant of “mistakes happen”. Some felt I was blaming writers, or even questioning their integrity. (Such comments were much more prevalent on LinkedIn than on the blog itself.)

Actually, this has very little to do with either the integrity or the diligence of individual writers. Writers are human, and they do make mistakes. The problem is that they tend to work in environments that make mistakes more likely, and that make discovering them less likely. If we want to reduce waste in the content creation process, we should be looking not at individual writers, but at the process and environment in which they work. read more

Revision, Waste, and Evenness

A couple of weeks ago, in a post titled Improving First Run Quality, I cause a kerfuffle, and some questioning of my sanity, by suggesting that rather then celebrating revision as an essential part of the writing process, we should regard it as a sign that the writing process is flawed.

Today I wish to expand on this idea that we should be regarding revision as a bad thing. One of the key principles of lean thinking, which takes it inspiration from the Toyota production system, is the reduction of waste in the production process. Waste is anything that does not add value to the product. Rework is waste. If work is done, and then has to be done again, that is wasteful. Revision is rework, therefore revision is waste. read more

Why is writing the only profession untouched by its tools?

Why is writing the only profession untouched by its tools? Larry Kunz strikes a familiar note in his recent blog post, Tools come and go. I’m still a writer.

I’m a writer. Once I used a typewriter. Now I use XML editors. If I stay at this long enough, other tools will come and I’ll learn to embrace them.

My old typewriter is gone. But I’m the same writer I’ve always been.

The same refrain is sounded over and over again wherever writers gather. It seems almost a badge of honor among writers to proclaim that your work and the essence of what you do is unaffected by the tools you use. read more

The Big Step Back and the Small Step Back

My Book is currently in the technical review stage — meaning that people who I and the publisher respect have been asked to read and comment on the full draft. It is a humbling, daunting, and also energizing experience, and I am deeply grateful to the reviewers for their time, energy, and expertise.

One of the reviewers asked why the book is not itself written as a collection of EPPO topics. It’s a very fair question, and one I have attempted to address before. But I think there is more to be said on the subject, or, at least, another way of saying the same thing — which is often just as valuable. I think of it as the difference between a big step back and a small step back. read more

Improving First Run Quality

The enormous improvements in quality and productivity that have occurred in industry over the last several decades can, in large part, be attributed to a focus on improving first-run quality. In traditional production line environments, the golden rule was never to stop the production line. Any faults that might occur or be noticed while the product was on the production line were to be allowed to pass on, to be found and fixed in post production testing. Come hell or high water, though, the line must never stop. read more

What is Minimalism?

Ask what minimalism is (in a Tech Comm context), and you are likely to get a recitation of the four principles of minimalism.

Per JoAnn Hackos, the four basic principles of minimalism are

♦ Principle 1: Choose an action-oriented approach
♦ Principle 2: Anchor the tool in the task domain
♦ Principle 3: Support error recognition and recovery
♦ Principle 4: Support reading to do, study, and locate

This is the explanation from the inside. It is equivalent to answering the question, what is a can of peaches, by saying it is a can containing syrup and sliced peaches. What such a definition lacks is the explanation of why you would put something as wonderful as a fresh peach into a can. It is the what but not the why. read more

A New Look

Every Page is Page One has a new look. The main reason for the change is to integrate the blog into the company website.

When I started this, I had no idea if I would be able to maintain a regular posting schedule, or if anyone would read it. Wary of having the company site burdened by an abandoned blog, I decided to keep it separate. But the blog has now become a regular obsession, with a stack of draft posts in reserve and a stack of ideas sitting in Catch notes, so I am confident I will be able to continue it. read more