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Reconceiving Technical Editing Competencies for the 21st Century: Reconciling Employer Needs with Curricular Mandates

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Purpose: Current technical editing courses aren't meeting the needs of industry. This manuscript provides readers with a survey of recent editing-related job requirements, gives a brief assessment of popular technical editing textbooks, and describes two iterations of an editing course redesign in which the authors gave students a broader exposure to editing than text and markup. Method: The authors examined the job postings in conjunction with course descriptions, popular technical editing textbooks, and other media to gauge how well undergraduate classes were helping students gain necessary competencies for entering the workforce. Following, the authors redeveloped the curriculum for a 4000-level technical editing class. The curriculum reduced the focus on text editing and markup; instead, it framed the diversity of the profession to students through working with editing manuals/standards, MS Word and Adobe Acrobat, and audio, video, and websites. At semester's end, students were asked to provide feedback on course and content. Results: The revisions to the course disrupted student notions of pencils, paper, and grammar as the backbone of editing. Students were surprised by the new media focus but found it to be very useful. Most had little idea about the breadth of technical editing and enjoyed the exposure to multimodal editing. Most students, however, wanted more work with language basics. Conclusion: Editing jobs are morphing and students need practice in new media environments. Students are able to consider editing competencies as extending beyond text and traditional markup. Yet, most still feel uncomfortable with their own expertise in those areas. Programs should develop more than one editing class: a basic class for language, tools, and technologies, and an advanced class focusing on specific editing topics, such as video, audio, images, and Web.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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