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Issue 6, 29 April 1999

ISSN 1442-8652
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber

In this issue...

Feature article: Negotiating with writers, managers and others
Resource of the week: Several related resources for writers and editors of online (Web site) material
Tip of the week: Some general editing tips
Question time: Ratio of editors to writers
In future issues
Advertising policy
Subscription information

Feature article:
Negotiating with writers, managers and others:
some principles and a reading list

Moved to

Resource of the week:
Several related resources for writers and editors of online (Web site) material

Contentious is a web-zine for writers and editors who create content for online media. It includes many useful and thoughtful articles, including "Contender of the Month" (an excellent example of a informational web site) and "Fluff of the Month" (an example of a web site that attempts to do something similar to the "contender" but fails). You can read it at:

Online-Writing (OWL) is a public discussion list dealing primarily with the content creation for online media. They discuss writing and editing not only for all kinds of Web sites, but also e-mail publications, intranets, and any other venues that may appear in the future. Everything from the business and legal aspects of content development, to the evolving aesthetics of this medium, to the merits and flaws of specific projects is fair game.

To subscribe, visit this Web page, where you will find an option for joining the list:

Content Exchange is a new service for the online content industry. One feature is the Content Talent Database -- where all kinds of content professionals ("talent") who work for online media can advertise their services. Writers, editors, photographers, and others can become members and create a free, detailed profile in this database. Online venues seeking content help can search the database.

Content Exchange has its own free newsletter for the online content industry, Content Spotlight:

Tip of the week: Some general editing tips

(Extracted from a page of editing tips.)

Try to read for content only once; skim when looking for other problems on other passes.

Make several passes. Don't try to find everything at once. Skim for some things (such as fonts, spacing, missing illustrations), read for others.

When skimming, use a highlighter pen (or some online equivalent -- I type xxxx or **** or something similar at the spot in the file) to mark problems as you notice them, but don't stop to make changes; it slows you down and distracts you.

Avoid copy-editing at the same time as you're doing substantive editing; it slows you down and distracts you.

Question time: Ratio of editors to writers

Inge Lederer ( asks:

"I was wondering if you know of any publications or statistics that define the ideal number of writers to editors.

"I'm in a writing department that has 19 writers and two editors. One editor spends 80 per cent of her time on print production. I guess this means we really have 1.2 eds:19 writers.

"We produce policy and procedure guides, so the documents range from systems to processes. It's your typical technical writing stuff. I contacted The Editorial Eye and they were unable to help, given the answer depends on variables.

"Any info or leads would be greatly appreciated."

My response: JoAnn Hackos, in Managing Your Documentation Projects, mentions 10-15% of writing time as a rule of thumb for estimating editing time (figures I've seen in numerous other sources).

Hackos also points out what editors know (but managers don't always understand) -- the percentage of time spent on editing varies with the stages of a project, the type of editing required, and the skill of the writer. As with other metrics (writing time, etc), she recommends keeping records of how much time editors in your group actually spend, and on what tasks, so you can get a good idea of the dynamics of your particular situation. And lastly, having an on-call editor to handle extra work at peak traffic times, or when one of the staff editors is away sick or on vacation, can smooth out the workload without a company needing to hire another staff member.

In my personal experience, one full-time editor can support around 9 full-time writers, maximum (which fits into Hackos' 10-15% estimate; 1:9 = 11%) -- but if all 9 have a deadline at the same time, the editor is in deep trouble!

I'd be interested to hear what other editors' experience has been. -- Jean

In future issues

I plan to develop many of the points in earlier newsletters in more detail and also discuss such things as:

Do you have a topic you'd like to see covered? Do you have an article to contribute? Let me know! Please don't send any attachments or long items without checking with me first.

Advertising policy

If you have a product or service of interest to editors, I'll be happy to consider including a short advertisement, for a modest fee. Contact me for details.

Advertisement - Jean Hollis Weber

I am a technical editing consultant, working with print and online documents. Contact me at for all your editing requirements, including:

You can see my resume at and my list of publications at

© Copyright 1999, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.

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