Recently, I was asked to copyedit a highly technical article about establishing benchmarks for nuclear reactors that a non-English speaking scientist had written. I was wondering how I would approach this task when I don’t know anything about nuclear physics. Do I take a crash course in nuclear physics and visit the reactor site? Well, if I am to rewrite the article for the public or in less technical terms, it is helpful to know the basics of nuclear physics and work with the scientist to ensure that I accurately convey the information.
However, if I am copyediting the article, I do NOT need to know anything about nuclear physics. Instead, I would correct the grammar, and ensure that the author follows the corporate style guide and that the author uses the technical terms consistently. I also would verify the references and that the figures in the tables and graphs match the text.
So how would you approach copyediting difficult or technical material?