Most writers are aware of the fact that editing your own work is many times more difficult than editing the work of another writer. No matter how careful you try to be, it’s far too easy to overlook potential problems or outright mistakes because you immediately tend to revert to the mindset you used when writing the work. I’m a huge fan of editing and editors for all writing. Even peer editing, if you don’t have a dedicated editor, can help reduce the number of mistakes or issues.
I’m very disheartened when I hear news of a company that lays off all their editors but continues to tell their customers that quality is a top concern and they are doing everything they can to improve quality and accuracy.
How do these two mesh? Well, they usually don’t.
Having been on the receiving end of an editor layoff, I know that we were told that we writers would all just have to do our own editing now. Umm, okay. We DO a lot of our own editing before we send writing to the (former) editors but it doesn’t catch all errors. It doesn’t really address the issues in a larger team of writers around taxonomy, terminology and voice consistency. What about those? What about the in-house style guide? I don’t know a single writer in that group that was happy about losing our editors.
Before someone starts to complain in the comments, I do understand that cutting for cost-savings sometimes has to happen. I don’t believe this was the case in my own experience, however. I think that a policy change was decided on from the top and implemented without the ramifications being considered. At best, I believe this will result in the quality of documentation being about equivalent, but I’d actually bet the quality of documentation leaving that team will go down. Errors and typos will sneak in. Documentation sets will start to feel disjointed and non-uniform. Different voices will become readily apparent.
If you are looking for quality in documentation, an editing process should be an integral part of that effort. If you can’t afford a full-time editor, use a contract editor or budget time for your writers to peer edit each other’s work. Budget time for some group work on a style guide, terminology and taxonomy work. Just please don’t give lip service to documentation quality while all the time assuming writers can just magically assume the inherent tasks without costs in time and effort.