Why Shifting the Way We Think Revolutionizes How We Communicate

Room 42 is where practitioners and academics meet to share knowledge about breaking research. In this episode, Joanna Schreiber explains how rethinking and reimagining traditional processes can have wide-ranging impact on communications knowledge and practices.

Season 1 Episode 4 | 49 min

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[00:00:12.780] – Liz Fraley 

And good morning, everyone, welcome to Room42, I’m Liz Fraley from Single-Sourcing Solutions. I’ll be your moderator today watching the chat and question windows. This is Janice Summers, our interviewer and welcome too Joanna Schreiber, our guest today in Room42. Dr. Joanna Schreiber is an associate professor of technical and professional communication in the writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University. She’s been published in technical communication quarterly, technical communication and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, and I’m sure many other places as well. But those are the ones that we tech comm people all know. Joanna currently serves as treasurer for the Council for Programs and Technical and Scientific Communication. Her research interests include project management, technical and professional communication programs and technical editing. Today, she’s here to help us start answering the question. How does shifting the way we think revolutionize how we communicate? Welcome, Joanna. 

[00:01:15.150] – Joanna Schreiber

Thank you for having me. This is exciting.

[00:01:18.780] – Janice Summers 

We are very excited to have you and I’m very excited to talk to you. And we have a ton of things to get through. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get through everything, but we’re going to try. So I know you’ve got a book coming out soon, right? 

[00:01:36.440] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes.

[00:01:37.020] – Janice Summers 

 What’s the book called again?

[00:01:38.970] – Joanna Schreiber

Its Foundational Knowledge and Innovative Practices in Technical and Professional Communication and it’s coedited with Lisa Melanson.

[00:01:52.830] – Janice Summers 

Nice, and when is it coming out?

[00:01:55.890] – Joanna Schreiber

In the spring. 

[00:01:57.090] – Janice Summers 

In the spring of next year. 

[00:01:58.690] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes.

[00:01:58.730] – Janice Summers 

2021.

[00:02:00.240] – Joanna Schreiber

2021.

[00:02:00.540] – Janice Summers 

OK, cool. Well, we’re going to talk about that. But before we talk about that, I want to talk about what didn’t make it into the book.

[00:02:10.830] – Joanna Schreiber

What didn’t make it into the book?

[00:02:13.440] – Janice Summers 

What didn’t make it into the book. Right, that part that got left out is really kind of important and it has something to do with what you’re about ready to embark on.

[00:02:26.640] – Joanna Schreiber

So when we put out the call, we looked at all the proposals and we did not get a proposal about editing. And I’m not sure editing could have been its own chapter anyway, because editing is huge. And so as we were thinking about foundational knowledge and innovative practices, editing was really left out. And so that my next project is about editing and thinking about it as this kind of foundational thing, but also this really changing thing.

[00:03:03.130] – Janice Summers 

Yeah, and it’s a pretty critical piece, and not a lot of people talk about the importance of editing and the role of editing and all of the nuances and all what you’re about ready to embark on. So I’m really excited about that. And I want to talk to you before we talk about the book that’s coming out, I want to talk to you about editing and get your thoughts and opinions on things as they exist now and where you want to go. Like, what’s your thought process behind this. Now, also, this is research that others can get involved in this is correct?

[00:03:41.660] – Joanna Schreiber

 Yes. Yes.

[00:03:41.960] – Janice Summers 

 OK, so I want to stress that from the beginning and we’ll repeat this again, because this is everybody’s chance to tag an editor if you know an editor or editors that are listening to this, this is your chance to get involved at the ground level right?

[00:03:58.920] – Joanna Schreiber

 Yes.

[00:03:59.510] – Janice Summers 

–of research that’s going to go into a publication about the field of editing. So off of the benches, out of the closet and get into the forefront of this, how did they get involved?

[00:04:13.260] – Joanna Schreiber

So my first step is going to–it’s a two-fold survey. I wanted to survey those who are teaching editing, but also those who are editors in a variety of industries. And I have questions. So I teach editing, I teach editing almost every semester. I have questions about things in technical editing that we think about as really traditional things like different kinds of roles, as well as like the levels of edit and how those things are either still there, how they’ve evolved, what else is new, but I also have questions about things like accessibility and how that has changed editing, and particularly over this summer, we’ve seen a lot of changes to traditional style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style and AP style, looking at capitalizing black and brown, looking at the singular ‘they’ and the singular ‘they’ has really been at the forefront of a lot of discussions in the last few years.

[00:05:23.390] – Janice Summers 

Right, because the evolution of communication. 

[00:05:26.700] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah.

[00:05:26.870] – Janice Summers 

But before we get too deep into it, I want to let everybody know your email address is how they can reach out to you  to get involved, right? 

[00:05:34.740] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes. 

[00:05:35.560] – Janice Summers 

  1. Good, and Liz will put that in the chat stream as well.

[00:05:39.480] – Joanna Schreiber

 Yes. 

[00:05:39.760] – Janice Summers 

So let’s dive into editing and let’s talk about first what’s are things that kind of went down in this research. Are you going to find out how editors can be svengalis? I mean, get everybody to agree with them? Like, because that’s going to be really critical. I’d like to know.

[00:05:59.780] – Joanna Schreiber

How they’re going to get everyone to agree with them?

[00:06:02.600] – Janice Summers 

Yes.

[00:06:02.790] – Joanna Schreiber

Well whats–

[00:06:03.830] – Janice Summers 

we don’t have to argue their point. Like people just say, OK, got it. Yeah.

[00:06:08.960] – Joanna Schreiber

What’s interesting is when the Associated Press announced that they had decided to start capitalizing black, they said that it took them two years to decide that. So even editorial boards can’t agree very quickly on making a change.

[00:06:28.280] – Janice Summers 

Because that, you know, it’s funny because I actually had someone edit I had experience being on the receiving side of editors and they’re absolutely, truly talented and gifted for them to try to convince me to do things. It took a lot of tact, so kudos to them. So maybe some classes in psychology, cognitive psychology

[00:06:52.040] – Joanna Schreiber

What I tell students because all of my students really identify more as writers and then they take my editing class as like the other thing that they might do. And so what I tell students is that editors provide guidance, no matter what level of editor you are or what type of editor you are, like that’s essentially what your job is, is to provide guidance for either like content practices or to authors or to subject matter experts, however you’re doing it, and that holding on to like old rules or old guidelines is maybe something you should question. You are going to be that person that gets really attached to something. Eventually that will happen

[00:07:38.920] – Janice Summers 

happens to everybody.

[00:07:39.560] – Joanna Schreiber

Being willing to change, and being willing to explain why a change is needed rather than just thinking you’re going to be able to tell people that they need to change.

[00:07:50.740] – Janice Summers 

Right. So let’s talk about traditional editing processes like old school versus, you know, what are some of the newer methodologies and techniques. So if I look like I’m twitching a little it’s just because I have kittens that showed up and wanted to play all of a sudden, so, they’re babies, so they’re like really obnoxious. Go ahead.

[00:08:19.200] – Joanna Schreiber

So what we’re seeing in the literature and when I say the literature, I do mean academic journal, articles and like industry blogs, like tech world. 

[00:08:32.110] – Janice Summers 

Right. 

[00:08:33.240] – Joanna Schreiber

So we have the levels of edit that came out of JPL in the late 70’s and those were built upon in the 80’s. The usability level of edit was added, and then we see like more newer approaches really combining levels of edit with particular roles like copyediting and comprehensive editing and production editing. But at the same time, we’re seeing a lot of emerging practices, and things like content strategy really still aren’t that new, but how does that fit into that accessibility practices? Where does that fit? Is it at a new level? I would argue that it can’t just be a new level. So to the extent of how useful are taking through roles and levels, how useful is that still? Are people still doing it? Is there a new way? So those are the kinds of questions I have.

[00:09:39.790] – Joanna Schreiber

Right. And those are all part of that research to find out how has this evolved right, with the accessibility. Good, so how about, like, how language has changed, right? and how can editors make sure that they’ve got inclusioning and accessibility terms in the beginning? 

[00:10:08.560] – Joanna Schreiber

So with that, like, are you talking about, like, selecting words?

[00:10:13.810] – Janice Summers 

yeah.

[00:10:14.710] – Joanna Schreiber

OK.

[00:10:15.430] – Janice Summers 

Yeah. 

[00:10:16.360] – Joanna Schreiber

So when I start that discussion, I do start with the singular ‘they’ both because it’s very inclusive, but also because it’s incredibly useful. I mean, it really helps your content flow a lot better. In my lifetime, at least, we’ve seen like he/she using only she

[00:10:40.280] – Janice Summers 

Right.

[00:10:40.640] – Joanna Schreiber

s/he, like all these approaches. 

[00:10:44.050] – Janice Summers 

Right.

[00:10:44.090] – Joanna Schreiber

But like the singular ‘they’ is really the easiest

[00:10:50.780] – Janice Summers 

Yeah.

[00:10:50.870] – Joanna Schreiber

And it’s not a new thing, it just precedes the Victorian era, and now we’re kind of back there. 

[00:10:58.000] – Janice Summers 

Right, right. 

[00:10:59.530] – Joanna Schreiber

So it is both socially just but also incredibly a great way to clean up your content and so I talk to students about explaining it that way, but also thinking about your language like–thinking about how the language can include more people, how it represents people, it’s always about people.

[00:11:27.070] – Janice Summers 

Right. So thinking about your audience in the context, right?

[00:11:33.270] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah, and so there’s–one of the things that I do with students is have them look at different style manuals and how all those style manuals address these different issues, and then we look at it with a little more granularity. But the style manuals are doing a better job and but there’s always room to grow.

[00:11:57.500] – Janice Summers 

Is it one style manual that’s like better? they all pretty much depends on what you want to follow?

[00:12:10.960] – Joanna Schreiber

I mean, choosing a style manual is always about what you want to do. What are you trying to do and each style manual is really addressing a particular kind of situation. The Microsoft one is pretty good, there’s a lot of guidance from the Black Journalists Association, that style manuals are incorporating. There’s a lot of guidance from the copy-editors association that’s being incorporated and like publications like the Chicago Manual of Style are actually hosting like online Twitter discussions over like the different topics or the different changes that they’re doing, it’s really interesting time. 

[00:13:00.000] – Janice Summers 

Cool. Now, here’s the question, how do you approach editing from non-technical versus technical, unstructured versus structured? Is there a difference? How do you approach them from editor’s perspective?

[00:13:13.780] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, this is actually one of my questions, because I would assume that technical editing has shifted towards embracing more branding concerns, just like we’ve seen with instructional documentation becoming more and more branded so that that relationship between business discourse and technical and professional discourse is really starting to merge, and so that is something I want to get more into. Like how much does, like the company branding have to do with how you’re developing your–

[00:13:55.580] – Janice Summers 

Technical. Yeah.

[00:13:56.770] – Joanna Schreiber

 Your documentation and then structured and unstructured authoring. And this also, how you’re breaking up topics and how you’re organizing that content really is like a whole thinking about like digital governance kinds of issues is very different from like consulting a style guide, though there’s definitely a relationship there. And so getting students–the content strategy is something I introduce towards the end of my class and then we offer it as a separate class. So when I’m thinking about, like, why I need to include scope within technical and professional editing content strategy is like something I introduce but I can’t–you could do the whole class on that obviously since we have a second one. But the way I think about it from a curricular standpoint is also the way I think about it from an editorial standpoint, content strategy is something you need to understand. But you don’t necessarily need–as an editor, you need to understand that that’s content, you just need to provide guidance to and sort of understand how it works rather than trying to master every technical detail ‘cos that makes sense. So that’s the way I approach it with students in editing.

[00:15:26.230] – Janice Summers 

OK, good. That’s very helpful. OK, so now I want to switch over and start talking about the book. So and I like the fact that unless you’ve encompassed technical and professional communications, like there are one world, which is good. So now this has to do with rethinking and reimagining how this field, what components this field is made up of right? I mean.

[00:16:04.820] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes. So, yes, it’s technical and professional, but we still within defining that, we still recognize that business discourse and technical discourse and scientific discourse sort of overlap. But they still have their own–

[00:16:22.880] – Janice Summers 

 Nuances, right. 

[00:16:24.210] – Joanna Schreiber

–nuances. And so

[00:16:25.400] – Janice Summers 

 if you line them all up like the a diagram, there’s a lot more overlap.

[00:16:29.010] – Joanna Schreiber

There’s a lot of overlap and there’s a lot of emerging practices with overlap in one of the chapters is on biomedicine and writing in biomedicine. And that’s where you see a lot of that overlap. So the way that we approach the book, we thought about tactical communication as having an identity crisis, and we are not the first people to think that we are not even the first edited collection to put that in their introduction. So the way that we approach that differently was instead of trying to find a new lens for the field, so different lenses include like cultural studies and power and 21st-century practices. Instead of trying to find a new lens or a new definition, we really thought about all of the components and we treated the book as like kind of a selection of some other components. So we have some of the chapters sort of map the field and the different things going on. Some of the chapters show where the different components overlap, like the biomedicine chapter and then some of the chapters talk about rethinking traditional things like usability from an accessibility standpoint. So the future of that discourse, and it’s not an all-inclusive book, and so we think about books as being really complete, it’s really designed to be added to. That it doesn’t try to do everything. But yet the approach to identity is something that we are–like we talked about editing being missing. Like it can still fit within that framework. 

[00:18:21.720] – Janice Summers 

Right. So it’s a book that’s designed to be a little bit more organic and just have a slice in time, but allow for future as it unfolds.

[00:18:31.750] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah. So when you’re defining the field, you’re defining from that identity of components and you are highlighting different things for different audiences.

[00:18:43.000] – Janice Summers 

Right. 

[00:18:46.650] – Joanna Schreiber

So instead of trying to find this one definition that’s going to work, acknowledging that definitions come from this body of knowledge that you have to regularly reflect on.

[00:18:57.910] – Janice Summers 

Right, so all of these pieces that go into it. Right, and all of these different backgrounds.

[00:19:06.040] – Joanna Schreiber

I would have loved localization to be more–localization is part of one of the chapters I’m asked–i’m answering Shelly’s question sorry. I shouldn’t have had the chat off.

[00:19:17.290] – Janice Summers 

That’s OK. 

[00:19:25.160] – Joanna Schreiber

Localization is not foregrounded as much as I would like in the book, but it is part of one of the chapters. 

[00:19:35.440] – Janice Summers 

Ok.

[00:19:35.500] – Joanna Schreiber

But yes, localization is a huge.

[00:19:36.990] – Janice Summers 

I’ve been missing some of the questions that have been rolling in, so maybe I missed something Liz did I miss anything out.

[00:19:45.400] – Joanna Schreiber

I messed with your whole system. And I’m very sorry.

[00:19:49.390] – Liz Fraley 

 That’s all right. We’ll get right back in here. So your book is, you’re planning on revisiting it and expanding it over time.

[00:19:59.200] – Joanna Schreiber

I would like to do that. I really like working with Lisa so that’s always a treat. But also, I think the way we’ve set it up as a method that you can publish pieces and say–which is exactly how I’m setting up the editing project is like this is a continuation of this identity project. 

[00:20:21.650] – Liz Fraley 

That’s cool. Not a lot, we do tend to stick to this is how it is, I know it already, but being flexible and changing, that’s an underrated life skill.

[00:20:37.860] – Janice Summers 

How do you people start to adapt to more flexible approach like because it is I mean, we get really comfortable like that to them this is me, right i’m this. Like, how do people start to break those things down so that they can be more inclusive of other disciplines?

[00:20:57.530] – Joanna Schreiber

 I think my Aha moment in rethinking how we thought about the field was I was at a career fair and so I was talking to parents. Their kids were all looking for majors, and I was also talking to administrators, and the state of Georgia is rethinking its Common Core. And so that means they’re rethinking all of the classes that will go into it, including humanities classes. And so, as I’m talking to parents and parents are really interested in knowing, like, what jobs their kids are going to get, and so when I’m talking about, the classes that we teach, I’m really focusing on the practical aspects of technical communication. But when I’m talking to administrators who are very concerned about, you know, what humanities classes will go into this. I really highlight, like, you know, how I teach ethics in that class and what concepts I use. And so I’m really highlighting the humanistic parts of it and you know, the theories, that’s not what I’m talking to parents about. And that’s not what I’m talking to prospective students about, like students want to know, like you know what kinds of projects we do, if they can also take screenwriting because they don’t know if they really want to take editing. So I have the conversation with the students, like all of your classes will be exciting. And then I have a conversation with the parents, don’t worry, they’ll get you a job–

[00:22:28.080] – Janice Summers 

they’ll be able to get a good job-

[00:22:28.130] – Joanna Schreiber

 –and then I have a conversation. This is all the same event. You’re talking to the administrator like no, technical communication classes are still humanities for this reason.

[00:22:38.550] – Janice Summers 

Right. So I guess for the practitioner than understanding the context of what they’re writing about and then thinking getting outside of their box to think about inclusion,  including other careers or other disciplines. So on a case by case situation, it’s not so much just to adopt one methodology, except for maybe that would be the methodology, but not one size fits all. 

[00:23:08.070] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes.

[00:23:08.440] – Janice Summers 

One answer like we can’t say 42 is the answer to everything. 

[00:23:13.950] – Joanna Schreiber

Are you sure?

[00:23:15.270] – Janice Summers 

 Well, it could be, it could be because like you said, for each person.

[00:23:20.530] – Joanna Schreiber

But even if you’re a practitioner, when you join a new team and you’re explaining what you do, you’re highlighting certain aspects of what you do 

[00:23:31.990] – Janice Summers 

Right. 

[00:23:33.080] – Joanna Schreiber

When you start a new project and there are accessibility issues, you explain that, you know, this is something you can also contribute to when you’re writing a performance review. You are not explaining your value and you’re explaining your value in a very different way and you’re highlighting the complexity of your value rather than like when you’re having a quick conversation with a colleague in the hallway, you might have a very simplified, more simplified approach.

[00:24:03.460] – Janice Summers 

Right. So context is–

[00:24:07.330] – Joanna Schreiber

 like I can help you make your content more inclusive might be how you explain what you do to a colleague in the hallway. You’re going to when you’re talking, when you’re writing your performance review, highlight the complexity of that work.

[00:24:24.870] – Janice Summers 

Well, and it’s also who you’re writing to. That change in your audience changes things drastically. Ok. Good. Yes Liz, she’s writing me now, So I’m getting show notes.

[00:24:49.420] – Joanna Schreiber

 Am I supposed to be looking at notes?

[00:24:51.960] – Janice Summers 

No, you’re not. 

[00:24:53.360] – Liz Fraley 

Not at all. That’s Janice’s job.

[00:24:57.880] – Janice Summers 

It just gets distracting a little bit. OK, so the best practice right now then for people to do is to adopt understanding who they’re speaking to and what they’re trying to convey and what they’re trying to accomplish with what they’re offering right?

[00:25:14.890] – Joanna Schreiber

 Yes, and understanding that inclusive practices are actually evolving in the moment. 

[00:25:20.940] – Janice Summers 

Right. 

[00:25:21.430] – Joanna Schreiber

And whatever book you just picked up is probably a little late to the party. 

[00:25:28.870] – Janice Summers 

Right.

[00:25:29.200] – Joanna Schreiber

And that it is truly evolving in the moment on social media, in the blogs for these style manuals it’s–

[00:25:35.710] – Janice Summers 

–it does. 

[00:25:35.830] – Joanna Schreiber

It means different editors associations because things are going so fast that we have to have the ability to keep up like that rapid pace. Requires that we be open to change on a regular basis to respond, right? So and one thing I want to ask you, so like you know, we’re talking about the technical communicators and the professional communicators. This also includes editors like you not excluded, like maybe for the editor, they don’t necessarily have to have all the deep technical nuances, but for them to understand the audience and to understand how communication is evolving at the moment.

[00:26:24.440] – Joanna Schreiber

And then what materials they need to develop, what checklists, what documentation they need to develop to provide guidance and maybe I’m in more unique situations. But I’ve actually had students go on their first day of internships and being asked to write a house style guide. Because nobody wants to do it.

[00:26:47.640] – Janice Summers 

 No.

[00:26:48.450] – Joanna Schreiber

And they’re like, thank God we got an intern.

[00:26:53.370] – Janice Summers 

Didn’t they state out the work for an intern?

[00:26:55.380] – Joanna Schreiber

But it’s the kind of work that is like so needed but nobody wants to do it. It’s really clearly kind of devalued, but, yeah, it keeps everybody on track. 

[00:27:11.860] – Janice Summers 

Yeah, and oftentimes it’s what like the end consumer content is needing right? It’s often what they’re looking for.

[00:27:21.360] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, it helps your end-user, you know, find information across the different platforms and know how it works and 

[00:27:30.870] – Janice Summers 

Right. I mean, you know, if you’re delivering everything online, you know, we think about how much information that people are already hit with and we think about how much they already have to process. And if it’s true that we only have X amount for our active cognitive process, just like let’s get them the answer and let’s get it to them fast, right? because that’s what they’re looking for as an answer. They’re not like, you know, usually out there just let me read, you know, this really long manual. 

[00:28:02.500] – Joanna Schreiber

They’re not starting at your home page, they’re not. 

[00:28:10.150] – Janice Summers 

They want to get there, get what they need and get out. So it is important to the end consumer, what you write them is kind of great for interns. 

[00:28:24.250] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah, it is just crazy, and actually, when I cover corporate style guides and house style guides, it kind of give them an idea of like where–what–First of all, they start by trying to steal somebody else’s corporate style guide like don’t start from scratch.

[00:28:44.830] – Janice Summers 

Right, borrow from, be inspired by

[00:28:48.070] – Joanna Schreiber

Be inspired by, but also look at the affordances for the different kinds of content you’re working with, like those are your questions. That’s where you have to start. But it’s a big task to hand an intern, I mean, it’s a big task to hand a seasoned writer or editor. 

[00:29:03.220] – Janice Summers 

Yeah. 

[00:29:03.340] – Joanna Schreiber

But an intern, but it happens like it wasn’t a small company. It was Ford. 

[00:29:11.320] – Janice Summers 

Oh.

[00:29:16.090] – Janice Summers 

Oops?

[00:29:20.580] – Janice Summers 

Yeah, yeah.

[00:29:21.930] – Liz Fraley 

 I don’t even know what to think about that. 

[00:29:23.890] – Janice Summers 

No, but I mean, yeah, it’s hard and, you know, interns don’t have all of the tribal knowledge that would require really understanding your consumer, right? You make assumptions about the consumer, but that could land you into a lot of problems, right?

[00:29:43.450] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, even just at knowing what questions to ask to scope that project. 

[00:29:48.070] – Janice Summers 

Yeah. 

[00:29:49.430] – Joanna Schreiber

Because guide sounds like it’s easy, but it’s not. It’s a pretty complex document.

[00:30:06.300] – Liz Fraley 

We’ve got a lot of people wanting to chime in. I look forward to our next phase. So do you think that changing editing to something the way we did for tech writer to tech communicator, Information specialist or information developer, we’ve tried a lot of things. Do you think that changing editors to like information framers or something else might help?

[00:30:34.970] – Joanna Schreiber

So there’s already been moves in the literature to change editors, to like project managers or thinking about them as directors, they are.

[00:30:47.830] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah.

[00:30:50.350] – Janice Summers 

Right. 

[00:30:51.760] – Joanna Schreiber

They are

[00:30:51.840] – Janice Summers 

So if we re-imagine their title?

[00:30:55.520] – Joanna Schreiber

well, I think the first thing I need to start with–

[00:30:57.530] – Janice Summers 

 and appreciate the concept of them with the perception of them right?

[00:31:01.430] – Joanna Schreiber

I think we have to start as a discipline to appreciate the concept of editing. And if we spent more time, I think we make too many assumptions like the assumption I made about branded content. I’m making an assumption based on research and technical writing, and I’m assuming that that might also apply to technical editing. But I don’t know and if we started studying technical editing the way we do technical writing and of course, there’s going to be lots of overlap. And of course, there’s roles, writer-editor roles. That’s–perhaps we need to start with us. It’s very hard to make an argument about how everybody else perceives us if we aren’t starting with, like, valuing editing enough to really study it.

[00:31:51.900] – Janice Summers 

Right.

[00:31:54.320] – Liz Fraley 

So we’ve got two that are sort of similar questions, right and we were talking about this the other day, I had a UX professor from computer science talking about the foundation of that. So one of the problems while working from home is that collaborative sort of whiteboard experience, right, where you working over something, and so one of our questioners asked about, like, simultaneous editing right for like Google Doc and other things like that, simultaneous editing. Is that going to change how you teach editing? Or how does that–

[00:32:31.750] – Joanna Schreiber

a collaborative?

[00:32:34.560] – Janice Summers 

Yeah.

[00:32:34.740] – Joanna Schreiber

Oh, I make them use Doc OK, so actually that’s next week’s thing is they have to be looking at mark up practices, we start with Microsoft Word, we look at Microsoft Word, Google Docs, all of the mark up practices and style tools related to Google Docs, Microsoft Word and Acrobat.

[00:32:59.060] – Liz Fraley 

 Right.

[00:32:59.570] – Joanna Schreiber

Where we start, but also, I don’t know, maybe that might not be answering the question.

[00:33:08.210] – Liz Fraley 

 Well, how does it change how you teach editing?

[00:33:10.520] – Janice Summers 

It doesn’t, like the simultaneous everybody’s in the doc where they can all I don’t know if it changes, right? Yeah, Microsoft, you pass it around, but you wouldn’t necessarily have it all in the same doc 

[00:33:22.860] – Joanna Schreiber

 Oh Yeah.

[00:33:24.140] – Liz Fraley 

You get different pass coming in, even with Acrobat, you’d get that, right? 

[00:33:27.270] – Joanna Schreiber

Oh, yeah.

[00:33:27.740] – Janice Summers 

 Right.

[00:33:28.370] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, so you have to think about editing as like, there’s moments of editing that are very collaborative, whether or not you have a collaborative technology like editing doesn’t mean you have tons of control, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have tons of control sometimes you’re just begging people to, you know make it better. 

[00:33:48.490] – Liz Fraley 

Right. I had a spectacular editor. 

[00:33:52.020] – Janice Summers 

That’s that Svengali thing you’re going to teach. Right?

[00:33:55.590] – Liz Fraley 

 Say it again.

[00:33:56.960] – Janice Summers 

This Svengali thing that she’s going to teach in the new research it’s gonna figure out how they can convince everybody to do what they want.

[00:34:04.910] – Joanna Schreiber

Sometimes that means framing feedback as questions like, I think you intended to do this.

[00:34:12.050] – Liz Fraley 

 I get those a lot.

[00:34:13.610] – Liz Fraley 

Do you really, maybe you should expand this a little bit. 

[00:34:19.230] – Liz Fraley 

So and but that’s sort of collaborative editing. That’s a different level, right? So, yeah, you’ve got different ways to recompose the question or do copy edit.

[00:34:29.720] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, the traditional levels of editing aren’t really talking about collaborative editing, so that’s really like another like it doesn’t mean they exclude collaborative editing like that, but it’s not necessarily part, so rethinking those levels or reimagining what? Like a concrete set of processes for approaching editing could look like it’s really a central, it’s kind of why it’s the central question, though I hadn’t thought about it from a collaborative perspective, but its

[00:35:03.250] – Liz Fraley 

Can somebody add a little bit to that because we’re talking about like the tools that facilitate that kind of thing. There’re starting to be tools like, I want to say Grammarly and other like interactive tools that add on to your editing environment, whatever it happens to be. But again, so those are also targeting a specific part of editing maybe. Do you see those as being replacing style guides or replacing other editing practices or, you know, where do you see them fitting into?

[00:35:40.210] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, I mean, even with Grammarly. So Grammarly still isn’t going to encompass everything, every style because the styles don’t all agree. If we could replace style, they would, we would actually just probably have one like so Grammarly is going to help you and I don’t use it. I actually have never use Grammarly, but I’m aware of, i’m sure to some extent Grammarly can help with proofreading. That final step, but you have to it’s not going to necessarily adhere to the style that you’re trying to use or the house, whether we’re talking about a house style or like a style manual. And I’m not sure if you can control for that, but Grammarly would have to be updated really often to really be able to handle the different styles. Like that.

[00:36:38.090] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah, and there are other similar I think pretty much any tool that’s doing that kind of thing well I mean you can put in rules, say, about your own corporate brand, use this, not that this noun cannot be a possessive, things like that, but even that only gets you to a certain point.

[00:36:56.000] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah, it doesn’t, it’s not going to give you–it might be helpful, but it’s not. You have to understand the extent of that help. And that’s where editors have to be able to explain their work, like, yes, it’s just like. I mean, even something as simple as citations, there’s all kinds of citation generators that, quite frankly, I use, students use they’re almost never, they’re never perfect. So if Grammarly until those are completely mastered, which is pretty simple. 

[00:37:34.480] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah.  

[00:37:36.430] – Joanna Schreiber

Grammarly probably isn’t going to.

[00:37:40.370] – Liz Fraley 

All right, so

[00:37:40.790] – Joanna Schreiber

I mean, but it doesn’t mean it’s not like unhelpful. It just means it’s limited.

[00:37:46.310] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah. I automate where I can and where I can’t. You still got to do the work just the way it is. So you were talking about I love the singular ‘they’, you know, is so very useful. I completely agree, half the time I’ll take the person out to make it to just get rid of the whole need for pronouns in the first place. But like how do you is there a shift now from like third person to second person in technical writing, like when you do ask rather than when the user does this? Like, are you seeing that? Or like what is your opinion on that?

[00:38:27.880] – Joanna Schreiber

I think that depends on who you’re right, who is it like an internal, is a customer facing, is it internal who’s the internal customer? Like, if your internal customers is sales, it could end up with a real customer. So I think that’s the first question you have to ask without. With the singular ‘they’, when I first started teaching here in 2013, I actively had to tell students who like, this is what I’m telling you, don’t use it in your other classes, your other teachers might not agree with me. I still have to do that to a certain extent. But that has gotten better, I’ve seen that part get better where because teachers get really attached to old rules too. I don’t know if that helps your question. 

[00:39:30.430] – Liz Fraley 

No, well it does it’s just I noticed that when you survey around and you read different companies docs for fun, as I know we all do. It’s fun to see that people are taking chances, like, for example, I read a part of the sales first stocks not too long ago, and they were telling this whole story like, you are a superhero, and they put it in this huge superhero story metaphor. And it was fascinating, but I don’t know how effective it was because I’m on the outside reading it. But so

[00:40:09.470] – Joanna Schreiber

But you’re also probably the target of that, like they were supposed to hook you. 

[00:40:15.950] – Janice Summers 

She’s often not the target.

[00:40:17.390] – Liz Fraley 

I am not the target for anything, actually. I am so not the target for anything.

[00:40:21.300] – Joanna Schreiber

But this move toward incorporating storytelling into everything is that you need to put your fingers on the scale without a lot.

[00:40:34.340] – Janice Summers 

Right? We have to look at what benefit does it get you and is it important to something or if you’re reading a tale? Sometimes those things can be very good if you’re trying to get the person to really integrate and engage them and capture them. So I think it depends on who’s the receiver of the information and what you are trying to do? Like if somebody is trying to fix, like, I don’t know, their websites down, they’ve got to go fix something. They’re not going to be interested in a story-time, right. There’s no time for that. But there are things when you’re trying to walk people into something where it might be better to show.

[00:41:15.410] – Joanna Schreiber

Yeah, you’re trying to get them situated in a particular role or particular frame of mind, I think, actually, which is pretty outside still. I still think of it as technical communication. But recipes, recipes are now like eight page stories with the ingredients at the bottom.

[00:41:36.140] – Janice Summers 

Well, there’s reasons for that. 

[00:41:37.490] – Liz Fraley 

But let’s not go into that reasons. 

[00:41:39.700] – Janice Summers 

No. 

[00:41:41.930] – Liz Fraley 

But I do want to talk, I wanted to bring it back to when you’re doing the storytelling, you are. I had a great editor. He was a spectacular editor. Like, he was amazing. And he would take the language and make all of it work together, right. Not just like I’m telling a story, but using the story and all the words that go with it. And even now, like, we are actually having to be more careful about that, right. Including getting rid of the ugly technical language by removing words like master/slave, male, female component parts, white hat, black hat, that kind of stuff. How do you teach that? How are you, what’s your what do you, expand on that for us from an editor’s perspective and an educator?

[00:42:28.370] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, I think you approach it as I think an editor approaches as someone who’s not going to know all of them and is learning, and there’s words like for people in academia. I mean, the word freshman, the word grandfathered like and then being willing to like, oh, here’s the history of that word, or this is why we say first-year student now being willing to be told you’re wrong or that you need to rethink something even if you’re in charge as the editor is really important. And that’s how I approach it as a teacher and as an editor. Like, I know I don’t know everything and I’m willing to be corrected. And but also like if you’re not sure. Look, you know, being well, taking the extra time to look it up, like look at the etymology of a word being more cognizant of like, well, some figures of speech may I have, that I use a lot might be problematic. I mean, I’m from the Midwest, and it took me a long time to stop saying you guys.

[00:43:55.970] – Liz Fraley 

Right, there was a great article that was actually on the GSA, the General Services Administration, about a slack bot that tried to correct that they’ve since pulled that article down. I’m not sure when it came down, but it definitely is not there anymore. But whenever this somebody said, hey, you guys or hey, they’d say do you mean you all? do you mean folks?  do you mean, you know and it helped, it actually did change some behaviors, which was kind of interesting. So there’s another place tech can help us, I guess.

[00:44:29.360] – Joanna Schreiber

Well, and student. So students, because I teach in the South are like, well, you know, everyone thinks we say y’all. It’s like, you know, it means that we’re just like these, like uneducated people. And I was like, actually, y’all have a really inclusive word there. It’s incredibly useful and be proud of it. And this is how we could also think about these other things.

[00:44:54.740] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah. That was one of their choices too, was actually y’all was very cool. So, OK, we’ve got language, we’ve got all these things, how about, so you mentioned accessibility, what guidance can editors focus on or I mean, I’m sure it’s a wide, it’s not just language, right? It’s color, it’s vision.

[00:45:21.220] – Joanna Schreiber

It’s color, it’s typography.

[00:45:24.880] – Liz Fraley 

Right. What more can, tell us about how editing affects that design discussion? 

[00:45:33.810] – Joanna Schreiber

So because accessibility is so many things, accessibility has to be almost your first thing. So regardless of even if we’re thinking in traditional roles like copyeditor and, you know, substantive editor and production editor, accessibility has to be the foundation of all of those things because otherwise, if it’s tacked on last, it’s not going to be right. It’s almost like if you tack it on last or treat it like something you can do last, it is almost going back to like a waterfall approach to writing and editing where you’re like, these are all the bugs and now we’re going to fix them with this manual.

[00:46:18.120] – Liz Fraley 

I mean, I have encouraged people to submit doc bugs here and again, but yeah, there’s more to it than that. So, all right, we’re close to time. We’re actually just over time. But I want to finish with one, another piece that is part of that puzzle, right, it is language, it is color and it’s design, editing touches all of those things, including things like IVR’S and voice activation and interactive content.

[00:46:52.910] – Joanna Schreiber

Yes, and I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in any of those things, but it is all of the things. All of that interactive content, and so you’re also thinking about how, like different–because it’s like linguistic theories and practices that really affect like how theory works. So you have to also like be cognizant of that, though I would say as an editor, don’t try to be an expert at absolutely everything, but know who your experts are.

[00:47:21.960] – Liz Fraley 

Yeah, there was a great article a couple of years ago, actually on the difference between Siri or Alexa and Hey google, right. That one was more male-oriented, one was more female-oriented. In a way, you address the device. It was really it was a kind of interesting article, but it’s something only an editor would notice.

[00:47:42.350] – Joanna Schreiber

And it’s actually a lot of research that goes into the voices for like especially for the maps, because people get so frustrated when they’re driving and they can’t find something they look for, like these soothing voices that are actually quite a bit of research.

[00:48:00.290] – Liz Fraley 

And so rethinking what we think can really help not just us, but a lot of people. 

[00:48:05.280] – Joanna Schreiber

I hope so. I believe that, and I hope it helps other people as well. 

[00:48:10.380] – Liz Fraley 

Excellent. Well, thank you, Joanna, for such a great interview. 

[00:48:13.610] – Joanna Schreiber

Thank you all so much.

[00:48:15.190] – Janice Summers 

Yes, thank you. 

[00:48:16.110] – Joanna Schreiber

This is an awesome format. The future of professional development, you might say.

[00:48:21.500] – Liz Fraley 

I’m sure Kirk would say that, in fact, yes awesome. Thanks, everybody, for being here and thank you Joanna and again, this was a fantastic experience and I love that we get to talk editing because it doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.

[00:48:35.600] – Joanna Schreiber

Thank you so much. 

[00:48:37.240] – Janice Summers 

Thank you. 

[00:48:38.780] – Liz Fraley 

All right, folks, we’ll see you next time. In almost two weeks we got something new.

[00:48:43.520] – Joanna Schreiber

Excellent.

[00:48:45.650] – Liz Fraley 

 Bye everyone.

In this episode

Dr. Joanna Schreiber is an Associate Professor of Technical and Professional Communication in the Writing and Linguistics Department at Georgia Southern University. Her research interests include project management, technical and professional communication programs, and technical editing. Her work has been published in Technical Communication Quarterly, Technical Communication, and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. Joanna currently serves as treasurer for the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC).

Join us in Room 42 as we discuss futures and foundations in technical and professional communications. By rethinking and reimagining the traditional processes, an illustration of a range of knowledge and practices that comprise the field emerges. We’ll also explore the evolution of editing, how diversity and inclusion style changes have affected technical editing work, and editorial processes for improving accessibility. We will be introduced to a new book coming out Spring 2021 and you will be invited to be a part of new research beginning this Fall! Time permitting, we’ll also talk about one of Joanna’s other passions, her rescue pups!

Resources

Email: jschreiber@georgiasouthern.edu

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanna-schreiber/

Faculty Page: https://cah.georgiasouthern.edu/writling/directory/dr-joanna-schreiber/


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