Like any activity, tech editing has its own set of languages and tools.

As a tech editor, you need to be versatile and tech-literate because you edit where the writing is. Technical writing today can happen in a variety of different programs and languages. If your author is a developer, they’ll write using the toolchain they’re most comfortable with. Tech editors today need to be comfortable stepping into a variety of different landscapes, and you’ll need your own tools for editing once you get there.

Writing programs and text editors

Long-form writing today can happen almost anywhere. Google Docs, Word, an editable PDF, any number of note-taking tools like Notion or HedgeDoc. I’m keeping a keen eye on Almanac but haven’t used it yet.

(I’m not mentioning documentation, because that covers a whole universe of tools too numerous to list here.)

Languages and markups

  • Markdown and its various flavors, for example, GitHub flavored markdown (GFM).
  • Plain text markups like reStructuredText (reST), AsciiDoc, DITA and HTML.
  • Static site generators (SSG) like Jekyll, Hugo, Sphinx.

File sharing and version control platforms

How is your author sharing their files with you? It’s good to know your way around Google Drive and Dropbox.

You might be expected to edit in version control software⁠—so get familiar with how to review a pull request in GitHub, and a merge request in GitLab. There is a bit of a learning curve here.

Language checkers and linters

There are many browser-based assistants for reviewing writing, such as Grammarly and Hemingway App. There are also linters (like Vale) to check prose in the command line.

Style guides and dictionaries

There’s a plethora of writing and style guides available today. Ultimately, what you edit against depends on the client, organization or project; but it helps to have an awareness of which ones are out there. I like these curated lists by Draft.dev and Write the Docs.

Editing markup conventions

Last but not least, tools for the task of editing itself.

You need to be aware of how to add suggestions and comments in different programs.

  • In Word, are you using track changes?
  • In Google Docs, are you working in suggestion mode?
  • In GitHub, are you just adding commentary or are you making suggestions to the file?

Also consider if you’re going to use semantic markup to your editing comments, for example Conventional Comments or Editing Codes.


Image credits: Page with pencil and ruler image by Flatart from Noun Project.