TIDKT: What is a tech editor?

Hello. Thanks to everyone who is dropping in for the Things I didn’t know Tuesday. I have been amazed and delighted at the reaction the posts are getting. So nice to see so many budding designers dropping by to learn along with me.

Before I began designing I knew that books had editors to help refine the language, sharpen it up and to check for errors of fact, spelling and grammar. But, once again, I hadn’t really contemplated whether that happened with patterns or not. I think the first time I came across the term was when I was first submitting to calls and many mentioned “tech editing is provided.”

So what is a tech editor and what do they do?

Essentially their job is to work with the designer to ensure the pattern is as accurate and professionally presented as it can be.

The full title is technical editor (and it is normally shortened to TE) and their job is to check:

  1. All information needed to complete the pattern is contained within it.
  2. All of that information is technically accurate.
  3. That following the pattern will produce an item of the stated size.
In practice this means:
  1. Check the tools and materials list. Is it complete, are all items actually used in the pattern?
  2. Check the abbreviations list. Are all terms used in the pattern and are any missing?
  3. Are the pattern notes clear. Would noting anything else help the user?
  4. Does the tension/gauge information seem likely?
  5. Proof read all text to make sure that all the abbreviations and terms used are consistent throughout the pattern and punctuation is consistent It is really helpful if you have a style sheet for the tech editor to refer to.
  6. Advise the designer on places where the instructions could be made clearer.
  7. Go through the pattern line by line ensuring that each line uses the number of stitches produced in the previous line and produces the stated number of stitches. So if you started with 8 sts the line
    *K1, k2tog; rep from * to end. (4 sts)
    would need some adjustment as it uses 6 stitches not the 8 you have.
  8. If appropriate, check that the chart agrees with the written instructions.
  9. Check that the number of stitches or rows divided by the tension/gauge information for different sections of the garment agrees with the information given in the schematic or use that information to create a schematic and, for clothing, check that the measurement would create a garment that will fit a standard body.
This doesn’t mean that a pattern that has been tech edited will be error free but it will help towards that goal.
When you are working for publication with yarn companies or magazines then often the pattern will be tech edited and sent straight to publishing, sometimes you will work with the TE to resolve some issues or be asked to review the final copy.
When reviewing the document that comes back from the TE make sure that you look at all the changes that have been made and understand why they have been changed.
So how much does this all cost if you want to engage a TE for your indy pattern? Well, it varies. Tech editors are all freelancers and will have their own rates for indy designers. However, if you are a budding designer, you’ll be pleased to hear that like most of the handmade community the fee is much less than similar professionals in other fields. It varies from about £10 (US$15)  to £20 (US$30) per hour. Some tech editors will work for a fixed fee and most will be prepared to do as much as they can within your budget. Bear in mind that some tech editors may charge more but be quicker so the lowest fee is not always the cheapest. As a very rough ball park a simple pattern with a fairly easy stitch pattern and not too much shaping in just a couple of sizes might take an hour. A fully graded sweater will likely be three hours upwards.
“I don’t need tech editing, I use test knitters.” 
I take serious issue with the above statement but hear it time and time again. The test knitter is meant to make the pattern in a particular size and pay attention carefully to the pattern to make sure it works. They will feed back information about any errors they find in the pattern and any place they feel instructions are unclear. They are not systematically checking all the other points listed above. And this is in a professional PAID tester. The majority of testers are not paid and are doing it for fun and may or may not complete the test knit to your deadline (or at all) and they may or may not report a problem they find. They may think it was them that made the mistake and fudge it a little. Test knitting will give you lots of feedback about your pattern but it is not a substitute for a tech editor.
There are lots of things you can do to reduce your tech editing costs substantially: 
  1. Create a style sheet which lists what information you need to include in every pattern, how you will abbreviate and punctuate, stock phrases for often used techniques, how you will list measurements, how different sizes will be shown in the pattern. Doing this allows your TE to concentrate on the job in hand rather than wonder whether you want it written ch1 or 1ch as you’ve used them both about 50/50 throughout the pattern!
  2. Be your own TE first. Before you send it to the TE make sure it is the best it can be. Read through it with a critical eye. Check your own numbers again. The more mistakes you find the fewer your TE has to take time to deal with.
  3. Build a good relationship with your TE. When the two of you find a happy working rhythm and can communicate ideas clearly together it really speeds the process up. Let your TE know how you prefer to work and find out their preferences too.
  4. By being organised and making sure you allow plenty of time for the tech editing process you won’t have to ask for a rush job which may incur a higher fee.
So if I’ve convinced you, how do you find yourself a tech editor? There are normally listings on Ravelry for tech editors that are currently accepting indy clients. Or ask a fellow designer if they have a recommendation (although many designers keep this info close to their chests as they don’t want their favourite TE getting too busy!) Have a good conversation with the TE about what to expect before you agree terms as it is really important that you can work effectively with your TE. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and to follow them up.
I hope this post has been enlightening – check here for other posts in the series.
I am planning to do a follow up to the “How a designer goes from inspiration to finished pattern” post looking at how much it costs to put out an indy pattern soon – I’d love to hear your thoughts and view on this.

Comments

  1. says

    This is another really helpful post – thanks. I really enjoy the technical side of knitting and am interested in TE-ing both in terms of getting my patterns TE’d and also developing my TE skills. Thanks again for sharing :-)

  2. says

    Hello – I’m just having a lovely afternoon hopping around all the links from the bloghop on the Crochet Camp FB page – so much fun! Just found your little spot and I LOVE it! Your TIDKT posts are awesome, I’ve learnt so much! Thank you :)
    Em xx