In editing, author-editor communication can go wrong in many ways. But editing digitally can minimize the risk.

Authors can always find something wrong with their editor’s edits, whether the edits be handwritten or in a digital format. Three of the most common problems that authors feel editors introduce to their works are edits that (1) are unneeded and excessive, (2) change meaning, or (3) take an unreasonable amount of time to review. However, research has shown that technology can make a difference in how authors perceive these issues. 


In his 2004 article “Electronic Editing and the Author,” Clinton R. Lanier—a technical writing consultant, a technical editor, and an IBM information developer—researched the benefits of technology in the editing field. He interviewed five published authors in the technical writing field to gain insight into their opinions of handwritten editing versus digital editing. Lanier wanted to know why authors would prefer the different formats, the effect each format had on the editing process, and whether authors have experienced any of the three most common problems found in editing.

The majority of participants indicated that they preferred digital editing because the format was easier to use, review, and mail. In the free-response questions, participants agreed that editors often introduced unneeded edits, changed meaning, and made the process more time consuming. The participants that preferred digital editing mentioned that certain features of word processing programs reduced the risk of these problems.

Learning what authors like and dislike about e-editing could….suggest best practices for implementing e-editing so as to provide both the functionality required by the editors and the attributes preferred by the authors.

—Clinton R. Lanier (2004)


The benefits of electronic editing are why many editing businesses have turned to technology more often than handwritten editing. Technology’s relevance isn’t the question—the question is how people should use it. Its use should help editors avoid edits that authors feel are unnecessary, change meaning, or take an excessive amount of time to review. Therefore, editors should use track changes, comments, and file transferring so that they, and the authors they are working with, can experience an amicable and uncomplicated editing process. However, editors must decide on when to use tracked changes versus commenting and whether to transfer files through email or an online storage program. But ultimately, editors should always take an author’s preference into account, even if they disagree with the author’s decision.

To learn more about how technology can influence the editing process, read Clinton R. Lanier’s (2004) full article:

Lanier, Clinton R. 2004. “Electronic editing and the Author.” Technical Communication 51, no. 4 (November): 526–36.

—Shaelyn Topolovec, Editing Research


Find more research

Check out Clinton R. Lanier’s 2009 article to learn more about editorial authority in electronic editing: “Creating Editorial Authority through Technological Innovation.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 39, no. 4 (October): 467–479.

Read Shirley S. Ackerman and William W. Turechek’s (1988) article to learn more about the risks of online editing: “The Risks and Rewards of Online Editing.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 31, no. 3 (September): 122–123.

Take a look at David Dayton’s (2003) article to learn more about the methods of electronic editing: “Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A survey of Practices and Attitudes.” Technical Communication 51, no. 2 (May): 207–223.