When Academic Scholars Say They Need an “Academic Edit,” What Do They Really Mean?

Avi Staiman

If you’re new to the world of academic writing, you might think that the final sentence of an article concludes not only the paper, but also the writing process. Experienced scholars and academics, however, know that a draft’s conclusion is not the end of the long, arduous process that eventually culminates in publication. Rather, editing plays a critical role in formulating and perfecting the paper.

Scholars often have difficulty pinpointing what “editing” means. Scholars looking for an academic editor use specific terminology, which can be as confusing for prospective editors as it is for the writers. For this reason, we would like to suggest a taxonomy with several clear definitions and categories of “editing” — while keeping in mind that some of these categories are not actually related to language editing at all.

Writing Coach

The first type of academic editing, and one that is frequently sought by junior scholars, is reviewing your work with a writing coach. Writing coaches are appropriate for scholars who are having trouble with their writing while still in the initial stages of writing their article. For example, a writing coach would be appropriate for a scholar who is experiencing writers’ block, or someone who is unsure how to address critiques from an academic advisor or after peer review. A writing coach may also be appropriate for someone who simply does not feel confident with the draft he or she has produced.

Scholars seeking this type of review should work closely with a professional writing coach to ensure revisions are accurate and appropriate. Writing centers at universities and graduate schools are excellent resources for this preliminary stage of review. 

Academic Language Editing

Academic language editing, the second type of editing in our taxonomy, is a distinct form of editing that covers all language-related issues, including grammar, spelling, syntax, flow, and other related concerns.  

This type of structural and stylistic revision should be carried out by a professional academic editor.  Professional academic editors possess both a mastery of the language and an intimate knowledge of the subject matter. This dual expertise is necessary for the highly technical, topic-specific focus of academic language editing. High quality academic language editing can help kill two birds with one stone: not only does it ensure the piece is correct in terms of grammar and language use, an academic editor also provides suggestions and comments regarding content when relevant. A text that has been well-edited and accepted for publication can even lead to new publishing opportunities.

Academic Formatting

Although no “editing” of the body text or core ideas of a paper or report is involved, academic formatting, our third level of academic editing, is critical for making any manuscript publication-ready. Academic formatting encompasses all issues relating to the specific style guide or requirements of a journal or publisher. A major part of academic formatting relates to citations and bibliography. Without proper citation formatting for footnotes, references, in-text citations, and bibliographies, prospective publishers may have grounds to reject a piece altogether.

Because improper or incorrect formatting can be a barrier to publication, academic formatting should be carried out by an academic editor with a familiarity or expertise in the specific style requested (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, AMA, or others).  

Academic Proofreading

As a piece inches closer to the final stage of publication, academic proofreading should be the next step in the editing process. This type of editing requires a careful, painstaking read before publication to ensure no basic issues have been missed. This stage of the writing process should take place well after the texts are checked against the original for accuracy, entire paragraphs or sections are reworked, or any other kind of major overhaul is carried out.  

An academic proofreader is best suited to perform this kind of editing. His or her review will give the scholar peace of mind knowing that there are no editing mistakes left.

Scientific Review

The last type of editing that scholars often seek, scientific review, is not, in fact, a type of language editing. Rather, it is a review of the content itself within the text, similar to the type of feedback a journal reviewer would provide following submission to a publication. This type of review should be completed by the scholar’s fellow academics, colleagues, peers, or advisors.
Each of these five types of academic editing is obviously quite different. By precisely identifying which type of editing, proofreading, or review scholars are looking for, they will be able to communicate their needs to their editor, and increase their chances of receiving the most helpful revisions as they move towards submitting their manuscript.

 

Edited by Datya Sheinfeld

© Avi Staiman, 2018. All rights reserved.

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