Dayton: “Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A Survey of Practices and Attitudes”

Dayton, David. “Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A Survey of Practices and Attitudes.” Technical Communication 50.2 (2003): 192-206. Web. 27 Sept. 2010.







Determining how TC-ers navigate between paper and electronic modes. States in this article will summarize findings of 1999 survey. Identifies most important findings as follows:


  • editing has become de-specialized, distributed function in most TC workplaces
  • Evenly divided among respondent keyboard vs hard copy
  • Most used both alternately or together
  • Peer-editing highest proportion of hard-copy ers, writer-editors had highest proportion of electronic
  • Correlation between method of receiving docs and physical distance from the person being edited
  • no statistically significant association between editing modes and gender, age, industry, doc, type of editing.
  • most used automatic change-tracking
  • many had been diagnosed with repetitive strain injury associated with computer use


Background and Justification


Lit review between 1984-1996 arguing that tech editors often still using paper methods because didn''t believe computers suited to editing tasks. Notes that following studies (mentions Rude and Smith''s 1992 research), technology improved. Wanted to test his assumptions that better tech would mean more widespread adaptation (hypothesis).


Defining Electronic Editing


Recognition that the hard-copy/soft-copy distinction unclear, as some go back and forth or do not track changes.


Research Questions


Lists the types of questions he hoped to answer (see 195); stated would develop survey questions from his theoretical/practical questions.


The Survey Methodology


Developed for over a year; mixed methods of distribution (plain text, html, hard copy). 59% overall response rate (more precise breakdowns in 195-196).


Analysis of survey mode effects


explained how developed sample (including those with non-functioning emails and for what reasons). Identifies severable variables.


Statistical analysis: Software and procedures


Used SPSS. Gets very technical and hard to follow for me (196).


Results and Discussion


Demographic and background information


Table 2 (197). Compares results to STC''s 1999 salary survey-- results similar, but chi-square goodness-of-fit test found statistically significant differences.


Editing responsibilities across job categories


Table 3 (198)


Extent of electronic editing


Table 4 (198); Table 5 (199) summarizes results as to preferences.


Electronic editing methods and tools


Table 6 (199)


Hard-copy still the dominant editing mode


notes no standard electronic method.


Substantial use of macros for editing


some automation (some self-created)


Electronic tools for non-markup editing tasks


Spell checker, online thesaurus on top; least used was readability analyzer


Software applications used by all respondents


Most popular was word processor; second was doc composition programs (eg PageMaker); used plain text editors slightly more than HTML authoring program. Help-authoring software least frequently used.


Editing associated with use of larger monitors


4/5 used 17" or larger monitor. Editing use about 6% greater than non-editing


Blending hard-copy with electronic editing


Often blended (see table 7 p. 200)


Attitudes toward electronic and hard-copy editing


Table 8 (201). Gets very statistic terminology-esque. Does this audience understand him?


Interesting delineations emerge: edit-mode groups hard-copy markup better for substantive, equations, and final editing; electronic for mechincal. On the other four types, responses of the two groups roughly inverse (201).


Work-situation and personal factors associated with e-editing


Summarizes conclusions mixed with expectations.


Health problems related to heavy computer use


table 10 (203). Unexpected-- more eye strain with larger monitors. Unsure whether issue of time spent editing or if eye strain before getting larger monitor.


E-editing and the role of the technical editor