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Issue 7, 6 May 1999

ISSN 1442-8652
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber

In this issue...

Feature article: Stressing what is important in a sentence
Resource of the week: Bibliography on International Technical Communication
Tip of the week: More general editing tips
Follow up:
    Date formats
    Editor-writer ratio
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Feature article:
Stressing what is important in a sentence

Moved to

Resource of the week:
Bibliography on International Technical Communication

Sources in International Technical Communication: An Annotated Bibliography, from Nancy Holt Consulting,

Nancy Holt says these are "citations for people who are interested in learning more about international technical communication. This bibliography is far from exhaustive, but it is both growing and selective. I will add to this list as I have time and as I learn of new sources.

For a list of sources in international technical communication that are on the World Wide Web, go to the international reading list,

The citations are organized in the following categories (subject to change):

Tip of the week: More general editing tips

(Extracted from a page of editing tips.)

Don't overlook the obvious. Pay special attention to the document title, document number, and chapter or section titles.

If you re-used material from another document or chapter, or you use "boilerplate", check that any required changes (such as the product name) have been made.

Seek out copy that is in small print, where many mistakes tend to cluster.

Follow up 4: Date formats

Kevin McLauchlan, (aka writes:

"In your first issue, you talked about date formats. You then made your suggestion, based upon the assumption that the writer/editor could actually set the standard to be adopted.

"Well then... if that were the case, why not use the numeric format that has been around for years and that is guaranteed unambiguous?

"I refer to the good ol' metric taper: (yy)yy/MM/dd/hh:mm:ss Start with the largest unit, and go (as far as you need to) toward the smallest. Use whatever separators you like; it'll usually be readable and understandable.

"In my experience, nobody who keeps records or files longer than one year is very frequently interested in storing or retrieving them first by month or day. You normally go looking for the year first, don't you? The files (paper) are crammed into dozens of those "banker" archive boxes, marked by year -- or marked by month, but stacked in year- heaps. Yes? Similarly in disk or tape archives, the big unit you first encounter is most likely to be a year, then a month. Metric taper handles that quite unambiguously."

Jean replies: I thought about mentioning that format, but I don't think most people recognise it, or if they do, are comfortable with it, at least in the context of "the meeting will be held on 99/05/07" (as opposed to your suggestion of filing information). And an article in the latest STC newsletter, Intercom, states that Sweden uses the date format 98-01-03 to mean 1 March 1998! If this is true, then even the year-month-day format can be ambiguous.

Follow up 5: Editor-witer ratio

Geoff Hart contributes:

"Another statistic to add to your discussion of the number of writers a typical editor can support: I currently do heavy substantive editing (followed by copyediting and proofing) for 20+ writers, while simultaneously handling translation, print production, web design, slide presentations, and online help. There's no way I could handle this workload if my colleagues didn't spend most of their time away from the office doing other things (forestry research, presentations, drumming up more business for FERIC). So a "5% of total writing time" requirement for editing is probably the extreme low end of the scale; at the other extreme, if your writers write full-time and never leave the office, I'd be surprised if you can handle more than 5-6 of them simultaneously. A very broad range of variation indeed!"

Dennis Hanrahan adds:

"Our Product Information department here consists of some 50 people (about 36 of whom are tech writers) working on software and hardware documentation, including online documents and help text. We only have 2-1/2 editors (two @ 40 hrs and one @ 20 hrs/week). The two of us who are full-time editors each support about 15 writers, while the half-time editor supports 6 writers. We're all extremely busy, and I believe that we need at least one more full-time editor!"

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

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