Joe Clark

Severe technical editing

For over 25 years, I’ve edited difficult nonfiction works – the kind that require endless fact-checking (“verificationism”) and utmost internal consistency. (Did you write JPG here but JPEG everywhere else? Let’s fix that.)

I call my work severe technical editing because some works prove to be unpublishable after I edit them – i.e., my edits proved the books were unpublishable. One design book that I severely edited was only ever published nearly two decades later (and with none of my edits).

I’ll turn in lexically, typographically, semantically correct documents. That means:

Expect an avalanche of corrections

Just make sure you understand what you’re signing up for. You aren’t paying for some errors to be corrected. The 550-string software example above produced 130 correction files.

If you hire me, you really have to want every mistake in your manuscript corrected. The converse is also true: If you want every mistake fixed, hire me.

Indeed, hire me if you want somebody more competent editing your manuscript than a Millennial female with no real experience reading professionally edited copy. (I’ve just described most copy-editors in the 21st century.)

Fact-checking will be more thorough than you might expect

I assume every stated fact is incorrect. If presented with the phrase “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” I will verify:

  1. that there is a place called Canadian (there isn’t; it’s Canada and the adjective is Canadian)

  2. that Canada has a prime minister

  3. that Prime Minister is rendered in initial caps (only in some contexts; probably not this one)

  4. that Justin Trudeau exists; that his name is rendered that way; and that he was the sitting prime minister at the time the manuscript was written and when it is expected to be published

Note use of “rendered” instead of “spelled” or “written.” Getting spelling right only begins to address the task of rendering text accurately.

If that sounds like New Yorker–style fact-checking, that’s by design. I am, after all, someone who finds errors in the New Yorker.


If you’re trying to communicate science or technology to a civilian audience, you should let me edit your manuscript.

I’ll make it understandable. I’ll make sure it reads and flows well (a common failing of technical writing). And you’ll probably end up with a noticeably longer manuscript, but one that people will actually read and understand.

But don’t hire me in these cases

If you have a contract with O’Reilly, New Riders, or similar legacy technology publishers, then what you’ll end up with is a tedious technical or computer-programming book of the sort those publishers ship by the ton. All authorial individuality will be ruthlessly stamped out by these half-assed and incompetent publishers.

You can easily Google the names of enough half-assed, semi-competent “technical editors” you can hire to forge your manuscript into the undifferentiable widget required by your contract. Don’t bother trying to hire me.

Costs & contacts

Is your manuscript good enough?

I’ll make it better. Get in touch.


I’m an actual sociolinguist with 30 years in typography. I’ve got about 400 published articles to my name and have published two nonfiction books (one with New Riders, mentioned above). I’ve been online for 27 years, I’ve volunteered on technical standards bodies, and have written guides for other journalists on producing clean copy.

Most important of all, I am of the last generation that spent a lifetime learning things the hard way, developing broad general knowledge, and reading, reading, reading.

Easter egg

Did you spot the subtle copy error on this page?

Updated: 2019.01.17 ¶ 2020.06.23