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Editing complex technical multi-disciplinary work

Editing technical engineering economics studies

Editing of technically complex reports presents a special challenge, and the more technically complex the work is, the greater the challenge. The writing cannot of course be “dumbed down” — if a precise word, phrase or carefully constructed paragraph is necessary to convey the intended meaning to the writer’s peers, it must be preserved. At the same time it must be intelligible to non-technical people, so it may have to be explained to them without seeming to condescend. The challenge for an editor is even greater if the work is multi-disciplinary in nature. A proposal, technical report or other decision-making tool of this sort may involve elements of the engineering sciences, economics (both domestic and international), investment issues, and government regulation. In today’s global economy the constraints imposed and incentives offered by governments are often crucial to decision-making. International technical professionals, especially engineers, play an ever-growing role in business communication today. This presents a special challenge to editors because English may be a second language for many of these professionals. This is why international experience in editing complex interdisciplinary works is useful and sometimes essential.

An editor cannot be an expert in all the technical disciplines in a multi-disciplinary work, and is usually not an expert in any of them. This is an advantage rather than a shortcoming, since that editor may be the last line of defense in the battle to ensure that the work will be accessible to its ultimate audience: the intelligent layperson. Almost all technical professionals sooner or later assume too much background knowledge on the part of their readers, and a sharp eye in spotting and correcting this tendency is as much a part of the editor’s job as putting the final product into clear, convincing and graceful prose.

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