About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 35 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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There is no one, no matter how wise he is, who has not in his youth said things or done things that are so unpleasant to recall in later life that he would expunge them entirely from his memory if that were possible.

— Marcel Proust



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 11/30/2023

Totals
Posts - 2652
Comments - 2675
Hits - 2,662,820

Averages
Entries/day - 0.35
Comments/entry - 1.01
Hits/day - 349

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 1:30 PM Pacific


  02:18 PM

I had a thought today about one of the roles of editing, which I will describe by going off first on a tangent. We have at our company a group that sets so-called geopolitical policies; their charter is to research and enforce uses of country or region names, flags, maps, images -- pretty much anything that might appear in any company piece that might have any kind of geopolitical fallout. The sort of canonical example is the use of the name "Taiwan," which for obvious reasons can be quite controversial, so there are rigorous rules about using the name. And there are plenty more, let me tell you. They send around an email newsletter every now and then that illustrates some of the stuff they've caught and corrected, and it's always interesting, a kind of geopolitical bloopers reel.

Similarly, we also have the usual platoons of lawyers who advise on trademark and other commercial issues. In both cases, these groups help prevent us from doing ourselves some serious harm -- harm that can either cost lots of money (trademarks, say) or can actually threaten employees. In one famous example, a seriously pissed-off (non-US) government arrested some of our employees upon discovering something they disagreed with in one of our products.

So, editors. In a practical sense, editors are in the front lines for this kind of stuff. Lawyers do not scrutinize every topic in the docs to find possible trademark issues; editors do. Ditto for geopolitical stuff. (Although in that case, this is so critical that we have tools that attempt to suss out possible problems -- tools, that is, that are used as an adjunct to editing).

Editors also look for a lot more stuff that isn't quite as critical, but that can affect the company in smaller ways. As a trivial but salient example, documentation that's rife with typos, let us imagine, has some small effect on how the docs -- and perhaps the product -- will be perceived by users.

So we could send stuff out -- documentation, marketing materials, press releases, everything -- without any editing at all. But that would not be a good idea. And here, finally, is my thought: having stuff edited is like using safety gear when you're around power tools, say. Yeah, you don't have to wear safety glasses when you're using a circular saw, but what if? Yeah, you don't have to run a geopolitical edit, or trademark edit, or just plain text edit, but what if? As the geopolitical newsletter's examples illustrate, it's dang easy to send out a piece containing stuff that you might not even know is an error. Now and again, getting a review can prevent you from dropping that hammer on your toes, ouch.

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