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Copy Editing Technical Content

Do not under estimate Copy Editing in the world of Technical content

July 2, 2019 - Practitioner Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

I’m dyslexic, yet I’m in the business of content creation. How the hell does that work? For me, it works great. I get to write a stream of consciousness, and never re-read. For those who have to copy edit my content, it’s not as fun. Copy editing is not only key to content quality, but to efficiency in the world of technical content marketing.

How Tech Content is Unique

Bottom line: it’s necessary to have any content that will be viewed by the public, reviewed and proofed by at least one more pair of eyes before it is published. In the world of technical content, that is easier said than done.

  1. Terminology in the tech field sucks! It is difficult even for the most technical people to keep on top of terms like DevOps, AI Ops, Web App, platform visibility, environment parity, infrastructure as code, etc., etc.
  2. Those best qualified to write technical content are often the worst at writing it. I personally believe the reason for this is, tech follows logic. In tech, rules are rules. In written language, there are exceptions to most of the rules. For a techie like me, this is infuriating.
  3. The presence of code within a post can be challenging. It’s basically a large “keep out” zone for the copy editor, but they need to know enough about what the code looks like so they know where it starts and stops.
  4. Writing code is very different than writing about code.  When writing code, it’s not necessary to signal where to start and stop, and comments within the code don’t need to be identified as separate from the code … or even spelled correctly.  When writing about code, however, it’s critical to follow syntax, spelling and grammar rules, to ensure the intended meaning and impact are conveyed. 
  5. The practitioner’s “voice” must stay intact. It’s very important that the style, attitude, perspective and personality – the voice – of the original technical author is maintained throughout the content. This makes the writing authentic and relatable, which is what techies want and expect.

There are instances where technical content is actually easier to edit than non-technical content. This is because:

  1. Technical content tends to follow a standard format.
  2. There is less prose and less storytelling; i.e., no creative style to work around.
  3. Technical content is not meant to be exciting or passionate. Some of the top-performing technical content are the driest reads.

At Fixate, it’s five pairs of eyes! Yep all content is first viewed by the writer (obviously). Second, the technical editor needs to provide initial approval. This is followed by two technical peer reviews. Then the copy editing is done by a fourth person to check for grammatical, typographical and syntactical errors. The technical editor comes back for a last pass before granting the final blessing.

Why it matters

We all know why we do copy editing: So we don’t publish stupid mistakes. Yet even in the world of copy editing, an editor will find something they don’t like in another editor’s changes. That is human nature; stop it.

For content to have any value, it needs to get published. Letting content sit on the shelf because it hasn’t been deemed “perfect” by everyone who reads it, prohibits the organization from benefiting from content marketing.

This is where copy editing is more than just words on the page. It’s a process. By making sure every piece of content that Fixate creates goes through the same copy editing process, we ensure that what we deliver has consistency. That consistency is key when it comes to any revisions or questions on the content itself. That consistency minimizes the authors’ writing skills as a variable in content quality.

Copy Editing Drought

About a month ago we encountered a copy editing drought at Fixate. We maintain a team of technical copy editors to make sure our monthly content creation process goes smoothly and has consistency. Last month we lost one, and the impact was clear. All blogging for the Fixate blog stopped, and the backlog of content to be reviewed swelled. But still, no piece of content was left unedited.

Do not underestimate the importance of copy editing when it comes to technical content.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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