Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, November 2016
Building Document Author / Technical Editor Relationships
By: Laura Kilgore
Since starting my current position as a Technical Editor three years ago, members of our team have done two different personality assessments, which we then shared amongst ourselves. Each time, however, I have been reluctant to participate, as I balk at the idea of categorizing people. I don’t want to define you by an acronym, color, or animal; I want to actually get to know you as a person.
Ironically, my relational personality type explains why I dislike personality assessments. Whatever my feelings about these systems, they have helped me realize two very important things: relationships in the workplace are vital, and everyone relates in very different ways.
Over these past three years, I’ve noticed certain things really help form and improve these relationships. The following tips may come naturally to some, but they are aspects of communication that can be honed and perfected.
Be warm, but professional.
Smile! Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, believes that 55% of all communication is nonverbal. This means facial expressions, gestures, and posture are key to any interaction. Good posture (e.g., shoulders back, arms uncrossed, hands upturned) projects confidence and openness, eye contact communicates interest, and a genuine smile invites interaction.
Of course what you actually say is vital too. Communicate as clearly as possible. Ask relevant questions, and stick to the topic at hand.
Make sure to listen. Maybe your document’s author isn’t as good at communicating as you are. They may need to ramble a bit before they come to their point, but don’t interrupt. If their point is unclear, repeat a summary of the conversation to confirm. It’s always better to confirm now than to make assumptions that could waste time.
Don’t be afraid to talk about non work-related topics where appropriate (e.g., before or after the business has been discussed). Keep it PC, though. You can ask general health and weather questions, but don’t ask questions or share things that may be perceived as too personal.
Keep your Author in the loop.
For me, this requires a daily evaluation of all projects I’m involved with. If it’s been a while since I’ve heard from the author of my document on its progress, I’ll check in with them to see what the status is and if I can help with anything. If the project has been in my hands for a while, I like to send an update every few days to let them know where I am with it and if I have any questions. More than anything, this lets them know that I’m actively working on the document and that they can trust me with it.
Be on-time for meetings, and respond promptly to emails.
This should go without saying, but nothing can disgruntle an author faster than tardiness. It tells them that you have more important things going on in your life than them and that you don’t have much regard for their project or time. Of course, things happen, but try to shoot off an email if you’re caught at the dentist’s and need to postpone that meeting. The same goes for a timely response to emails, IMs, or phone calls.
Consider personality and cultural differences.
Most personality tests cover different communication styles; understanding how colleagues relate is a huge part of building relationships with them. I know you may be joking around, but some people may be put off by friendly teasing. Or, maybe friendly teasing will help them relax and open up. Meet your author where they are. Give each individual the chance to show you how they relate to you before you choose a communication style. Learn to work with and around their strengths and weaknesses. This is perhaps one of the most difficult tips to follow and it requires observation and listening.
When your author isn’t a native English speaker, consider language barriers. Avoid slang and jargon. Talk like you write. Yes, there may be a five dollar word that would make you seem smarter and more accurately communicate your point, but go with the shorter, simpler term. Your job is not to make your author feel inferior, and nothing will do that faster than using vocabulary that they are unfamiliar with.
Their victories are your victories.
This is perhaps the most important thing to communicate: you and your author are on the same side and you have the same goals. Sometimes it can feel like you’re at odds with each other, but most conflicts can be resolved with open communication. You’re a team, and what affects one affects all. Make sure the document author you’re working with knows you feel that way.
Technical Editors cannot fulfill their full roles until they have earned the trust and respect of the authors or teams they support. Maintaining that trust and respect over time will make the path to victory as smooth as possible.
By: John W. Wilson
One evening early in my career, I was at a trade show and found myself beside a hotel pool, talking to a drilling engineer about his work. I knew I was in an industry where people were dealing with big, complicated equipment, doing seemingly impossible things. My grandfather had built wooden rigs around Texas in the 20s, and a great uncle sold mud, but I was having a hard time wrapping my head around just how complicated the work really was.
He offered a simple explanation. “Image that pool is the earth. And at the bottom of it is a quarter and that quarter represents a reservoir of oil. Now imagine you’re on the surface pushing a strand of boiled spaghetti through the water and trying to hit that quarter. That’s what it like trying to drill for oil.” It fired my imagination for sure because he made it clear the spaghetti was boiled. It helped me understand very clearly, that while drill pipe seemed stiff and strong, under pressure and depth it became something else entirely.
For years I chased the beast from afar, doing stories on rigs, new discoveries, technological breakthroughs and the like. I sold books on the field, and helped put on conferences. I got close to the nitty gritty when I started editing a magazine called Subsea. We cataloged all of the world’s subsea completions. It was fun picking up the completion details and talking to folks about when and how they decided to pull the trigger on subsea or surface. But the big payoff came when I was picked to edit the completion procedures for a major project.
(for MS Word 2007 and MS Word 2010)
You emailed a document to several people and got the feedback you wanted, but, they didn’t turn on Track Changes. Now, how do you figure out what’s different among all of their documents AND your original?
Let’s use MS Word’s Document Combine feature.
Tip: On the Review tab, in the Compare group, click the drop-down under the Compare button. Click Combine to combine revisions from multiple authors into a single document.
Figure 1: Combine selection
Under Original document, click the drop-down and select the name of the document into which you want to combine the changes from multiple sources. If you don’t see the document in the list, click the Browse button to search for your original document.
Figure 2: Browse button
Under Revised document, click the drop-down and select the document that contains the changes by one of the reviewers. Click More.
Under Comparison settings, check or uncheck the items you want compared. If you don’t want to see formatting differences, for example, you can clear the Formatting check box.
Under Show changes, select the options for what you want to compare in the documents. By default, Microsoft Office Word shows changes to whole words. For example, if you change the word jacket to jackets, the entire word jackets will show as changed in the document and not simply the character “s.”
Under Show changes in, click Original document. Click OK.
Repeat this for each reviewer’s document. Word will merge all of the changes into the original document.
Trick: Next time, try loading your document into SharePoint (with Track Changes on) and email people a link to it.
Mouse-over the file in SharePoint and click the drop-down arrow that appears to the right. Mouse-over Send To, and select Email a Link.
Figure 3: Email a link
This way, everyone’s revisions will appear in one document. Track changes will show who revised what and give you the option to accept or deny each revision. SharePoint’s Version History will also allow you to restore an older version if needed. Each person’s individual document of revisions will be kept without writing over the original.
The version history can be accessed by mousing over the file, clicking the drop-down that appears to the right, and selecting Version History.
Figure 4: Version History
Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.
Bookmarking a PDF
You converted your document into a PDF, and now you want to bookmark it to help readers navigate to specific sections easily. Here’s how:
Tip: In Adobe, click the Bookmarks icon to open the bookmarks panel.
Figure 1: Bookmarks button
With your cursor, highlight/select the title of the document or the first section heading (wherever you want the bookmarks to start), and then click the New Bookmark button.
Figure 2: New bookmark button
Your selection will then be added to the bookmarks panel. Do this for anything you want bookmarked. From anywhere in the document, clicking on a bookmark will take you directly to that page in the document.
If you later want to redirect a bookmark to a different page, go to that page, right-click on the bookmark in the bookmarks panel that you want to redirect, and select, Set destination. That bookmark will now be directed to the new location.
You can also visually reflect subheadings in the bookmarks panel by dragging them beneath (or out from under) a major heading.
Figure 3: Before (left) and After (right)
Trick: Don’t forget to set your document up to open properly for readers. You want them to know that the bookmarks exist.
To do this, go to File > Properties, and click the Initial View tab. Click the drop-down next to Navigation and select Bookmarks Panel and Page. Click the drop-down next to Page layout and select Single Page. Click the drop-down next to Magnification and select Fit Page.
Figure 4: Initial View tab
Now, readers will see the bookmarks panel upon opening the PDF.
Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.