Technical editors – Educators, Critics, or Caretakers

For the first several years of my career as a technical communicator, I was a technical writer. I researched, designed, and wrote online help systems for enterprise software products. To use Debbie Chachra’s label, I was “a maker,” which she explains in an Atlantic Monthly article “Why I Am Not A Maker.”

After being a technical writer, I moved into the role of technical editor, which is definitely not a maker, but more of an educator, critic, or caretaker of what is being made or who is doing the making.

I started thinking about this divide between the “maker” and “caretaker” roles, and the perceived value of these roles in various industries as described in Chachra’s article, and I was struck by how there seems to be this “pendulum” of the value for technical editors. Some technical writers go there entire career never working with a technical editor, although many seem to experience the ebb and flow of having one and then not having one. It was about 12 years ago that I researched and wrote “Technical Editing as Quality Assurance: Adding Value to Content,” trying to justify and show the value of being a caretaker for the makers.

In the fast-paced self-publishing world, will the makers brush aside any caretakers or try to take care of themselves?

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