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Copy editing of technical documentation

Copy editing technical documentation comprises the careful examination of texts regarding linguistic correctness, stylistic devices and structure. With a range of potential improvements, copy editing is able to vastly increase user friendliness of texts, even if they are tedious and hard to understand. Furthermore, copy editing enhances the way companies present themselves through their technical documentation. Customers will always perceive faulty and badly phrased texts as a nuisance.

Linguistic correctness

First, copy editing directs its attention to linguistic correctness: Are spelling, punctuation and grammar used correctly? An accumulation of errors may distract the users from the contents of the text and thus make it harder to absorb knowledge. On top of that, linguistic incorrectness in documents contributes negatively to the image of a company, creating an impression of carelessness and unprofessionalism. Therefore, copy editing ensures that technical documentation meets one of its basic requirements.
Who corrects your technical documentation?

Terminologic consistency

Copy editing checks, if terms are used consistently. Consistency is a basic requirement for a high quality of technical documentation. User friendliness decreases significantly, if, for example, the same thing in a software documentation is alternately called “screen” or “display”. Inconsistent spelling, such as “scroll bar” and “scrollbar” may also confuse readers. Copy editing should intervene and correct and standardize the spelling.
Terminology

Stylistic devices

Reviewing the stylistic devices of a text, copy editing checks the technical documentation for optimum intelligibility.

These are:

  • Are the terms in use commonly understandable?
  • If it is not possible to circumvent rare or less fathomable terminology, are the terms defined appropriately?
  • Are all sentences clear, linear and within a certain length.

Intelligibility

Structure

Texts in technical documentation should have a perfect didactic structure. That way, they achieve their aim to inform users quickly and easily.

Copy editing conducts a thorough analysis of the existing structure:

  • Is the information arranged sensibly? Is new knowledge built on existing knowledge so that it is easier to understand for users?
  • Is the structure logical and consecutive? Basic information should always be given before it is required somewhere else.
  • Are structure elements such as headings and marginal notes used sufficiently?
  • Are information classes such as safety instructions marked up consistently with graphical means?
  • Are the exisiting graphics embedded at the right place in the text and are they complemented with easily comprehensible captions and explanations?

Altogether, there is a variety of measures with which copy editing can be used effeciently as a method of quality assurance – the increase of the quality of language helps both users and providers.
Who copy-edits your technical documentation?