Alpha and omega

Before the spreading of the word

By Philippa Martin-King

One of the IEC’s less visible forces is the Editing and Document Preparation team. This nevertheless plays a vital role in producing the IEC International Standards that are used by companies throughout the world as the basis for their product designs and subsequent conformity assessment. Since the last e-tech report on its activities, the role of the Technical Editing team, as it was previously known, has broadened from technical editing to include layout and figures and electronic publishing; hence the reason for the new name.

THE EDP team is like a new variant of the Rubik's cube where all pieces fit ingeniously together

Editing and approval cycles

Before an IEC International Standard can be formally voted on and issued, it goes through several cycles of editing and approvals. Each IEC Technical Committee is responsible for the content of its own publications. The process of building consensus is a long one and, while all participating experts are masters of their subject matter, documents have to comply with a strict set of drafting rules (the ISO/IEC Directives, Part 2). Add to that inconsistencies in vocabulary that can slip in during the process of the writing; decimal points that get displaced; formatting and stylesheet use that cease to follow the original layout. When a document passes from a technical expert in one area of the world to another in an entirely different location, these types of discrepancy are inevitable. It is the role of the IEC's Editing and Document Preparation Team to ensure that each IEC publication follows the drafting directives and retains linguistic coherence between versions and subsequent translations, while remaining clear and unambiguous for its target audience.

Beyond "EDP" to layout figures and publishing

The July 2010 e-tech contained an outline of the role of the Editing team, as it was then known. During 2011, the Technical department at IEC Central Office changed quite considerably and various groups were joined together to maximise synergy. In the process, the Editing team became the Editing and Document Preparation team or, to coin a rather fitting acronym, much-used in the context of automation, the EDP. In its other guise, EDP stands for electronic data processing and involves tremendous volumes of efficiently-produced information. Seen in the context of the IEC it is a most suitable "homonym": on average, the team treats some 65 000 pages of documents each year.

During the course of 2011, two editors left, one to go into well-earned retirement, the other to pursue professional challenges closer to home. Together they had acquired some 40 years of technical vocabulary and knowledge. In the case of the IEC's broad representation of complex electrotechnology, that is not an easily-replaced commodity, and the IEC is lucky to have found two very competent and promising new editors.

The EDP team is dealing with some of the challenges encountered with 21st century document preparation and distribution process. Alisdair Menzies, Team Manager

Today, the various teams in charge of document layout, figures and editing have been grouped into a single, seamless whole. New international faces have joined the team to work on electronic publishing, figures, graphics and layout and generally to assist TCs (Technical Committees) in the preparation of their documents. Together they're dealing with some of the challenges encountered with any 21st century document preparation and distribution process. These involve stylesheets and templates; varying external software and hardware configurations; tracking of multiple versions; electronic databases and storage; world-wide distribution needs; digital asset management and the formal ISO/IEC Directives that need to be applied.

Taking into account new variants on the Rubik's cube

One could liken the Editing and Document Preparation team to a new variant of the Rubik's cube, in which ingenious design ensures that all the pieces fit together perfectly so as to rotate effortlessly around a common axis. The team Manager, Alisdair Menzies, is indeed passionate about the Rubik's cube, of which he has a whole collection in varying experimental shapes and different architectures, designed and manufactured using 3D printing technology – a revolutionary manufacturing approach covered in the August/September edition of e-tech.

The publishing world is a fast-changing one and members of Menzies' team are working hard to ensure that the pieces put together today don't have to be rethought tomorrow. In recent times the team has absorbed a high volume of new material: the quantity of translated publications has risen by 25 %.

TCs will welcome the new resource area set up on the IEC website to cater for their external experts whose part-time job it is to write and submit the information for IEC International Standards. They offer their work because of their passion for the subject, but they're rarely trained in complex word processing techniques and tools for figure acquisition. So, the Editing and Document Preparation team have put together a series of rules and recommendations; tips and tricks and guidance designed to help them in their task.

As the need arises and new requests come in for additional help, they'll be adding to and updating the information in that special section linked here.

rubiks_cube THE EDP team is like a new variant of the Rubik's cube where all pieces fit ingeniously together
alphabet Document layout, figures and editing retaining linguistic coherence.
Letters Editing work for the specialist typographer.