As a full-time technical editor for a team of writers, I find that I use queries (or “author queries”) less than might be expected or warranted in my markup and comments. I find that I use imperative comments directing them to make a change based on some standard or guideline, often clarity guidelines to improve the readability and ultimately the translatability of our information.
I recently read this blog post on the An American Editor blog called “The Art of the Query,” which gave me a renewed appreciation for perhaps more artfully using queries in my technical editing. Beyond the obvious reason to use a query (to ask the writer a question), he suggests that queries can be used to demonstrate your knowledge, to explain a point of grammar, or to make the writers more comfortable with you editing their work, among other suggestions. He also encourages that a query “be on point” and “identifies the problem and offers an appropriate solution.”
Linda Oestreich and I spend one full module in our Technical Editing Fundamentals certificate course for STC talking about how to write effective editing comments, one of which is a query. We encourage using more imperatives, and using queries in a similar fashion as An American Editor does. I think I need to remember the power of a query to communicate much more than just a question.
Happy editing everyone!