Read Write Perfect

Written By Jennifer Harrison

Five Good Reasons Professional Editing is Worth the Cost

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

By the time you reach the stage of researching and writing your own academic papers, you are already a pretty good writer. You have kick-ass ideas, a fascinating thesis, and a thorough understanding of your field. You have probably spent months – if not years – on original research and even longer marshalling your evidence into a beautifully organized, coherent, tightly focused text.

At this point, it may seem like a waste of time and money to go through that extra step of professional copy-editing. After all, with content this good, why bother? However, there are five very good reasons why a professional copy-editor with a specialism in academic editing is worth that extra forty-eight hours and few dollars.

1.       A fresh pair of eyes will catch mistakes that you might have missed.

After spending weeks and months crafting the perfect article, your brain will inevitably switch from “micro” to “macro” editing mode. In other words, you will naturally focus more on the big issues in your writing: the organization, the ideas, and the clarity, for example. You will, by the time you are close to submission, be very familiar with your own writing – so familiar, in fact, that the missing commas and odd word choices will no longer stand out to you. When we become too close to our own texts, we become less capable of picking out fine details in expression, grammar, and formatting. At the same time, as we add detail, cut and paste text, and delete ideas, we may end up being less clear than we think we are.

A professional copy-editor will not have this problem. He/she will be seeing your text for the first time, and every comma, citation, and definition will be new to him/her. Copy-editors also have highly trained eyes and work to a system that enables them to focus on both minute details and the bigger picture. A copy-editor will read your text with fresh eyes and will catch the inevitable mistakes that you will miss in your own revision process.

2.       A few misplaced commas might mean the difference between an R&R and a Decline decision.

After your article reaches your publication’s editorial board, it will be sent out for peer-review. Assuming your chosen journal follows a standard double-blind peer-review process, the reviewer will not know who you are. Reviewing a paper is a time-consuming process, requiring the reviewer to not only read and understand your article but also critique it, articulate any issues in a detailed peer-review report, and make suggestions for improvement. As much as reviewers enjoy providing this invaluable support (that’s why they agree to review, after all), most are also extremely busy with their own teaching, research, and writing.

It is easy to understand, therefore, why a reviewer will be more favorably inclined towards an author whose beautifully copy-edited work shows a matching investment of time and effort than one in which inconsistencies, grammatical errors, and unclear expression implies a less conscientious author. Most reviewers recommend R&R (revise and resubmit) for most submissions. However, if a reviewer sees proofreading errors as well as content in need of strengthening, he/she may feel more inclined to suggest the editors decline the article rather than offer and R&R decision. Professional copy-editing can remove the chances of your paper making a poor first impression.

3.       Professional copy-editing will speed your article through the production process.

Even if your paper is accepted by your chosen journal for publication, it will still need to meet the journal’s exacting standards of grammar and expression as well as the journal’s own style guide requirements, before it can be published. After an acceptance, most editorial boards will insist that your paper be revised in line with any reviewer comments (because even when a reviewer recommends publication, there will still be suggested improvements to address), rigorously copy-edited, and formatted according to the journal’s specifications. Most publications retain the services of a professional copy-editor to deal with minor issues, but editors will expect you to do most of this editing and formatting work yourself, before passing a piece on for copy-editing and layout.

Bear in mind that revision and copy-editing can be a lengthy process. Revisions that you make may need to be passed back to the original reviewers for further feedback. Changes made by the editors and copy-editor will be returned to you for revision and approval. Having your original draft professionally copy-edited before submission will significantly shorten the length of time it takes your paper to go through this process by ensuring that your paper is already stylistically perfect and linguistically correct.

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4.       Professional copy-editing will improve your own writing over time.

If, as you should, you read through the comments, feedback, and changes made by your copy-editor, you will find that your writing improves over time. After all, you can only be corrected on the same mistake a few times before you will start to remember the suggestions and corrections as you write, rather than afterwards.

Utilize your copy-editor as a teacher and instructor. Part of the job of a good copy-editor is to help you become a better writer yourself, by leaving explanations and constructive criticism. Take advantage of this part of the service to strengthen your confidence and your own revision process.

5.       Professional copy-editing is an investment in your well-being.

Finally, however much we may all enjoy what we do as professional academics and researchers, there is no denying that academic jobs are rigorous and demanding – there are never enough hours in the day. To meticulously ensure that each apostrophe in a document is a curly rather than straight one, that the same line spacing is used after every sub-headings, that the point raised in paragraph three really is summarized in the conclusion, and that “post-human” has been consistently hyphenated through the whole document takes a considerable amount of time. So does making sure that every single one of those CMS-style in-text citations matches up to a bibliographic reference correctly and has a comma in the correct position before the year of publication.

Think what you could do with those extra hours. You could take a nap. Bake a cake. Read a book. Go for a walk. Start your next paper. Give yourself a break, and hand the tedious work of editing to someone else. It will make a huge difference to your levels of stress, your sense of contentment, and your overall well-being.

That’s worth it, right?