A technical editor reviews and revises user guides, instruction manuals, and articles that describe specialized or industry-specific information. He or she works closely with writers to develop accurate, easy-to-understand pieces that are worthy of publication. Editors are responsible for proofreading works to ensure proper grammar and syntax, and for confirming the veracity of the information presented. Some professionals are full-time employees of publishing companies or manufacturing corporations that produce their own manuals, other technical editors perform freelance services for many different clients.
Proficient technical editing is essential to effective communication in many settings, including engineering firms, retail businesses, scientific research institutions, and health care facilities. Depending on the nature of a job, an editor may work in a physical office at a company or complete tasks from home on a freelance basis. Freelance editors primarily rely on e-mail and other forms of online communication to discuss projects with employers and writers.
In order to ensure quality documentation, a technical editor needs to be intimately familiar with the subject matter of written pieces and the audience who will make use of the information. He or she must make sure the language used by the writer is accessible by a particular group of people. For example, a technical article about recent nuclear research that is written for scientists can include highly-specialized terminology on the assumption that readers will understand the content. A similar article written for the general public, however, would need to explain terms and procedures in vastly more simple language. The technical editor makes the ultimate decision about the appropriateness of a piece's content and style.
When reviewing an article, a technical editor typically makes note of confusing sentences, grammatical mistakes, unsupported facts, and other errors the affect the quality of the piece. He or she may explain problems to the original writer and suggests revisions that should be made. In some circumstances, the editor may be able to make simple corrections to a document without needing to send it back to the writer. After a document has been thoroughly revised and deemed acceptable by the editor, he or she normally puts it in the proper format and submits it for publication.
The requirements to become a technical editor vary between employers. Many editors hold college degrees in writing, journalism, or a particular language. Others have degrees and experience in the specialized fields in which they work, such as chemical engineering or aeronautics. Editors often begin their careers as technical writers in order to gain familiarity with a certain subject matter and build their credentials.