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Software Development Templates


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Editing is the Difference


Classic symptoms of poor editing are inconsistencies in language and format, poor structure, factual inaccuracies and lack of consideration to the reader.

How can you make a difference when editing a document? We’ve outlined below some tips to steer you in the right direction.


Be consistent

The technical editor’s aim is to make a document consistent both in language and format. For example, if a function is called "autocorrect" in Chapter 1, it should be called this in all sections. Don’t change it to "auto-enable" later on for no reason. Aim to be consistent. Inconsistent writing is not interesting for the reader— it’s just confusing

Style and presentation formats need to be consistent. All main headings should appear the same; subheadings should also appear the same, but appear less important than the main headings i.e. smaller font size.

If your company has a style guide, follow the sections on words and formats. The style guide may need to be adapted for online publications if it does not address online document production. Otherwise, use a recognized guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style.


Use familiar terminology

Readers like to understand text quickly and don't want to spend time unraveling the meaning of words or insider terminology. On the Internet, use terms that are globally accepted to mean the same thing. For example, most users understand the term ‘Homepage’. Using the term ‘Main Channel’ instead will only confuse readers. Try to use what is generally accepted.   

Another example is with ordering forms. When shopping, users fill in the name, address, part number, etc., and clicks a button to progress. Most websites call this button, "Add to shopping cart" or "Add to Order." It is familiar to most online customers.

However, if the website renames the button "Submit", it will confuse the customer. Submit implies that the transaction in now complete and the order will be completed, i.e. your credit card will be charged. Users will not be sure what happens when they click the button. Most will abandon their shopping carts at this point.


Simplify graphics

Web graphics need to be very clearly presented. Monitors impose visual constraints, such as low resolutions and small screensizes. On small screens, one-pixel thin lines and small text is almost unreadable. Use intuitive color-coding to clarify the graphics meaning. A workflow diagram, for example, could have one process in blue and another in red. Important graphics should require little scrolling. Good editing creates a consistent look throughout the publication.


Organize the text

The basic guidelines for online text involve:

         Break up large text blocks. Lengthy text needs to be split into more digestible chunks or at least separated by headings, white space and graphics.

         Keep text in context. Check that content, such as context sensitive help, make sense in relation to its location. The content may be accurate, but the location may be wrong.

         Be consistent. Users get confused when terms change meaning. For example, the presentation of Online Help should be similar in appearance so that users recognize it as online help and not anything else. Other functions, such as pop-up dialog boxes, should have a different appearance.

         Consider recognized standards. When users access an online help file, they expect it to do certain things. Any variations on the standard---such as embedded help or tutorial help---should be introduced and explained to the user.

         Consider Global audiences. Web writing should be reduced to the essentials and word choice kept to the Standard English guidelines. Editing should capture and remove words and structures that confuse non-native-English readers.

Content is king, but editing makes a winner!


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