Technical Editor Interview Preparation Guide
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Technical Editor related Frequently Asked Questions by expert members with job experience as Technical Editor. These questions and answers will help you strengthen your technical skills, prepare for the new job interview and quickly revise your concepts

37 Technical Editor Questions and Answers:

1 :: Tell me when do you usually enter the editing process?

☛ before the author writes anything
☛ during the first draft
☛ after the first draft
☛ after the second draft
☛ after the author has completed all of the writing he or she can do

2 :: Explain me a positive experience you have had editing?

I've had many such experiences. I've had one author enthusiastically accept my suggestion for naming a concept he had misnamed; my proposed name will has entered the research literature and may become standard jargon in his field. It's always satisfying when I can identify problems with an author's research, propose a solution, and see that solution adopted in their future writing; that happens fairly often. I always try to teach authors how to do things better, and the ones who learn from my teaching and become better writers are an ongoing source of pleasure. Word of mouth referrals to friends and colleagues are the highest possible compliment.

3 :: Please explain what do you need to know about a project before you start writing?

Good content writers should start by asking questions and doing research. Who is their target audience? What are the goals of this project? Look out for writers who say they “just start writing.”

4 :: Tell us what is your favorite part of technical writing?

Give candidates an opportunity to show their passion for their work. It should be fairly easy to get a driven candidate excited about technical communications. This question can also help determine whether the position’s needs line up with the candidate’s areas of expertise and enthusiasm.

5 :: Tell us if you edit non-native speakers of English, do you change any of your practices for them? If so, how?

My work is almost exclusively with ESL writers these days, most in Japan and China but from pretty much all continents except Antarctica. To cooperate effectively with them, I've worked hard to learn about their culture and language, and always keep that in mind as I work. In addition, I work hard to revise and simplify my explanations, questions, and comments so that they will be easier to understand, explain more about what I've done, and go the extra mile to avoid embarrassing anyone; "face" is far more important in Japan and China than it is in the West, so avoiding direct criticism is very important indeed. I once spent half an hour trying to come up with wording that would tell the author he'd missed something that any reasonably educated undergraduate should have known without communicating the message "you're an idiot". I succeeded well enough in sparing him this embarrassment before his colleagues that he subsequently included my suggestions on this topic in his future research.

6 :: Explain me a cover letter/cover memo/cover email for your author when you return a document? If so, what does it contain?

_____No, I don’t provide a cover letter/cover memo/cover email.
__X___Yes, I do. It typically contains (select all that apply):
______A reminder of which document I worked on
______One or more compliments
______A prioritized list of what the author needs to do
______My contact information

The first time I return a manuscript to an editor (exclusively by e-mail these days), I practice expectations management: I remind them that I edit heavily for all my authors, and that we must work together to produce the final result. I don't remind them what document I worked on, other than in the subject line of an e-mail message; this is obvious when they open the Word file. I don't generally provide direct compliments, since after seeing a page drenched in red ink (or the track changes equivalent), that would seem deceptive at best. My comments are always designed to be helpful rather than critical, and the extent of my engagement with the authors thoughts (as made tangible in the document) makes it clear that I enjoyed reading it and spent time thinking about it. Authors really do appreciate that. My comments embedded in the manuscript explain what the author needs to do; I don't provide any additional advice on priorities unless something truly merits special attention and requires repetition to reinforce that need. Contact information is always there at the bottom of the e-mail as standardized boilerplate.

7 :: Tell me some recent projects you have worked on?

Let candidates explain some of their projects from the past five years or so. You want to listen for how these projects match up to yours, but also get a feel for how thoroughly the candidates explain the project. Do they demonstrate a thorough understanding of the project’s needs? Do they effectively explain the purpose of the material? What tools and skills did they apply?

8 :: Tell us how would you characterize your working relationship with your authors (please check all that apply)?

Good, very good, excellent, and/or positive _______
Cooperative, collaborative, and/or helpful ______
Respectful and/or professional _______
Good and bad _____

All of the above. I aim for respectful and collaborative, and go out of my way to help, but some authors don't like to be edited and the relationship becomes at best professional, and sometimes strained. But on the whole, most of my 300+ clients are very pleased with how hard I work to help them get published, and return time and again for more of my work. Some are enthusiastically friendly after we've worked together for a while; one tries to teach me Spanish, another Italian, several Chinese. Some even keep me posted about life events and how they spent their holidays.

9 :: Tell me when you begin working with a new author, do you do anything specific? If so, please describe what you do?

I have a set of standard terms for my clients that describes what I'll do. I start my relationship by providing much more explanation of what I've done and why than I will do for long-term clients, with the goal of helping the new client learn to trust my judgment (i.e., that I have reasons for what I'm doing rather than being arbitrary) and feel that they're in good hands. I explicitly remind them that editing is a cooperative and consensual process, and that the goal is to work together, not to play power games over who gets to make the final decision on whether a change is necessary. I emphasize that as the reader's advocate, anything I failed to understand is likely something other readers will also fail to understand; thus, it's better to work together to find a solution we both like than to leave a problem for readers to solve.

10 :: Please describe your typical editing process? When you edit a document, what do you do? Do you read it through entirely and then edit? Do you edit on your first read-through or make multiple passes, each for different items? Do you set it aside at any time?

I rarely have time to read fully through a manuscript before beginning my work, even though I work almost exclusively on shorter manuscripts (shorter than 10K words; all are journal articles or scientific and technical monographs). I always perform two passes through a manuscript: In the first pass, I fix all the substantive problems (logic, organization, clarity) and most of the minor copyediting details along the way. During that pass, I also insert many comments and questions asking for clarification. I then set the manuscript aside overnight so I can return to it with a different perspective for a second pass. If I don't have that much time (rush jobs are common), I still try to set it aside for at least an hour to accomplish the same effect. During that second pass, I tidy up my initial work and fix any errors I missed or introduced during the first pass.
This approach (at least two passes) is standard for all experienced editors (of which I know a great many). I sometimes do an additional pass if my initial edits require considerable work by the author; that final pass ensures that the author has responded correctly and adequately to all my queries and gives the results a final polish.