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The STC-Boston Technical Editing special interest group (TE SIG) brings together and supports individuals around Boston who provide technical editing services to clients on a contract basis or to employers. All who edit technical (including computer-related, engineering, scientific, medical, legal, and financial) material full-time or as part of other work responsibilities, or who are interested in doing so, are encouraged to come learn and share knowledge and experiences with other editors.

The STC-Boston TE SIG is a chapter version of the Society-level Technical Editing SIG, which maintains a Web site offering additional information and resources.

February Program

February 9, 2005

Offshoring: Bridge to the World

Like it or not, documentation work is being sent to editors outside the U.S. No company has developed a completely successful approach to offshoring tech pubs work, and return on investment, whether monetary or in terms of customer satisfaction, is hard to calculate. However, the trend to offshore technical publications will probably continue as more companies take a creative, long-term investment approach to the work. STC-Boston TE members have expressed mixed feelings about offshoring documentation, stemming from mixed experiences:
  • Some have been frankly impressed with the clarity of technical prose submitted by some non-native-English-speaking colleagues overseas who work for $8/h, and maintain that we must learn to live with offshoring. U.S. tech pubs teams in any case must demonstrate competitive value to companies: well-designed and -written English documentation produced efficiently and on time for key projects, saving as much money as offshoring the work and enhancing users' experience with products and services. Cost-saving methods and technologies (e.g., modular, reuseable, electronic documentation) must therefore be employed.

  • Other editors who have cleaned up in the aftermath of failed offshoring efforts contend that the "real bottom line" must take into account unexpected long-term effects -- about which management may need to be educated. Especially, requirements for U.S.-based and offshore teams must clearly define who does what and when to achieve specified milestones. American editors must help to clearly, formally specify documentation checkpoints and evaluate whether goals are met, and often need to train offshore writers in basic tech-writing skills, as non-native English speakers' writing often displays incorrect syntax (e.g., predominantly passive voice), grammatical errors (e.g., when a nonEnglish editor's primary language includes no future tense), and lost nuances, resulting in documents that communicate poorly to intended readers. Beyond possibly injecting annoyance or unintended distractions of mirth into otherwise sober documentation, such errors can require extensive rework to reduce the elevated support call volume that often accompanies unsatisfactory user experiences with poor documentation. Culture-related surprises -- such as casual interpretations of concepts like "deadline" and "invoice" -- may also accompany low hourly rates overseas, decimating the cost savings that managers had hoped to achieve. American editors must therefore actively participate in scheduled review meetings and demonstrate excellent collaboration and communication abilities.

Some in our group maintain that American workers must push government to take a greater role in regulating offshoring as executives' and employees' salaries diverge. Others contend that offshoring could ultimately benefit all, and that U.S.-based editorial groups are needed to take formal responsibility managing information architecture, language standards, core tools, editorial review schedules, and in-house style guides. In any event, U.S. tech editors are well advised to develop new skills, including group and project management, project planning, online editing, and knowledge of infrastructure tools like XML and CMS.

This meeting will offer a forum for sharing information to help self-marketing and also management decisions about offshoring. Come join us!

Welcome and munchies    6:30 - 7:00 pm
Discussion 7:00 - 8:30 pm

Sheraton Lexington, 727 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02173
Map and Directions

STC-Boston chapter and Northern New England chapter members    $7
STC members and non-members $10

Please register online for this meeting by February 7.

For More Information
If you have questions, please contact SIG coordinator, .

To receive notices of upcoming meetings, join the TE SIG mailing list, te-sig. To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail to with only the words subscribe te-sig in the body of the message. You will then receive a confirmation message explaining what you must do to complete your subscription.

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Last Modified January 15, 2005