Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF ACADEMIC EDITING?
Editing professionalizes your research. No peer-reviewed publication is unedited.
In my work as an academic editor, I’ve found that two fundamental realities escape many researchers.
- Writing has a composer; publications have audiences.
- In these competitive times, scholarly writers need editing even before publishers consider their work.
I could go on and on about those two points, but that’s what the blog is for.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A SCHOLARLY EDITOR?
It’s hard enough to find a good editor, let alone a good editor who can handle academic writing. I suggest that you keep a few things in mind when you are deciding among prospective editors. Actually, you might want to consider several factors.
A professional and capable academic editor:
- has credentials and experience relevant to your needs
- knows the differences between levels of editing—proofreading and copyediting, for instance, are not the same
- understands your project and your editing needs
- guides you toward services that will most help you in your current stage of writing and indicates future steps
- tailors service packages for your particular project
- knows your field’s style guide and can follow publisher-specific styles
- has reasonable prices that are not suspiciously low, which could indicate inexperience and possibly unprofessional service
- gives you a contract that you can amend and approve before moving forward
- provides you with a customized style sheet upon completion of the project or, if you have an ongoing working relationship, at critical junctures
- tracks her edits so that you can accept or reject them individually or all at once
- to a reasonable extent, can help you with technological issues regarding document formatting and markup
- offers followup support, even months down the line
- is a good communicator
- responds to you in a timely manner
- engages in professional development to keep her skills sharp and her methods current
These are marks of professionalism and serious dedication to the craft of editing.
To put editing rates in perspective, see this article by Princeton University professor Wendy Belcher. The specifics are a little outdated (the post is several years old), but she is one of the few who discuss academic editing specifically and at length.
WHAT ARE YOUR TURNAROUND TIMES?
Every project is different, and I discuss timelines with clients individually. When you contact me to make me aware of your project, I can tell you my earliest availability for beginning work. In general, I tend to be booked about six weeks in advance for larger (i.e., book-length) projects. Smaller projects can often be fit into my schedule more immediately.
If you know ahead of time that you will have documents ready by a particular date, contact me so that I can put you in my schedule early.
If you need a document edited in a time frame for which I am already booked, I can sometimes commit to work overtime to make it happen, so please don’t be shy about asking for my availabilities, even if you don’t think you have much lead time. I do charge a rush fee of an additional 30% when your timeline would require my working significantly overtime (nights and weekends)—in other words, when I’m already basically booked for a given time period but am willing to take on your project in addition to my existing workload.
I will do my best to accommodate your editing needs in a time frame that works for everyone. Contact me to discuss timelines for your project.
HOW DO I RECEIVE YOUR EDITS?
These days, most editing is done electronically. Clients usually submit documents in Microsoft Word’s DOC format. I use Word’s reviewing features to make my edits. The track changes function does just what its name implies: every alteration is marked by colored underlining for insertions and strikethrough or marginal bubbles for deletions. I also insert queries to you, the author, in marginal comment bubbles.
When you receive the edited documents, you can review the edits. As you address my queries, you can delete the comment bubbles individually. Each edit can be accepted or rejected individually or en masse. (Remember that each text substitution, though, is actuallytwo tracked changes: a deletion and an insertion. Both must be accepted or rejected for complete rejection of the change.)
I can coach you through the post-editing technological procedures. Alternatively, if you have reviewed the edited documents thoroughly and know that you want to accept all changes, I can perform that operation and send you a clean, markup-free copy of the document.
There’s so much more to maximizing Word’s reviewing features, but the bottom line is that they are very powerful and suit the needs of most writing and editing projects.
DO YOU HAVE ANY BOOK SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO HONE THEIR CRAFT?
Well, I suggest that scholars and advanced students own their fields’ style guides. Many fields go with one of the major guides but also have specialized subguides specific to the discipline. The American Anthropological Association, for instance, publishes a freely downloadable style guide that itemizes just those issues on which the organization deviates from The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Biblical studies have a similar situation, with the Society of Biblical Literature offering its own guide in print and online.
Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is of course a student-oriented translation of Chicago. It’s a bit more accessible than CMOS itself, but it’s not as thorough.
Helen Sword’s book Stylish Academic Writing is a must-read.
For planning, researching, and composing major student works, I suggest Patrick Dunleavy’s Authoring a PhD, Peg Boyle Single’sDemystifying Dissertation Writing, Irene L. Clark’s Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation, and Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.
Those in the social sciences, try Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences by Beverly J. Irby.
I’ve been interested in looking at Don Trent Jacob’s Authentic Dissertation: Alternative Ways of Knowing, Research and Representation. The blurbs say that it gives students and committees the tools to move beyond the stodgy, old, hoop-jumping paradigms for doctoral projects. These alternative paradigms apparently make use of experience and researcher creativity. If you have used this book, I’d be curious to know what you think of it.
Tweed’s Dissertation-to-Book Guides include more print resources for those who are interested in scholarly publishing.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I CALL OR EMAIL TWEED?
We will discuss the nature of your project and your desired editing outcomes. You will tell me your priorities, and I will suggest services that meet your needs. It is helpful if you reflect upon the following before contacting Tweed:
- the project’s timeline
- the level of editing that you think you want at this stage
- estimated size (page length, usually)
- the audience you have in mind (perhaps a thesis committee, journal reviewers, or a publishing house)
- any special style requirements (a journal’s submission guidelines, for instance)
- any prior feedback that you want to address
- preferred citation style
Don’t worry about having all the specifics nailed down in advance; if you have given some thought to these matters, you’ll be ahead of the game.
I look forward to hearing from you. Tweed’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The phone number is (503) 877-2KVH. Please note that I live and work in Portland, Oregon, which is on Pacific time.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After we have decided on a plan (even if it is open ended), I will send you a professional agreement detailing our arrangements. You take a look at the draft, suggest amendments, and we sign the document, usually electronically. Then editing commences as planned.
IF I HAVE A LIMITED BUDGET, WHAT CAN TWEED DO FOR ME?
It’s just the nature of academia that writers don’t have luxurious editing budgets. After we discuss your options, we can look at your budget and prioritize so that you receive the most important services.
For example, a monograph may need copyediting, citation management, and formatting to satisfy a publisher’s submission guidelines. Each of those services can be performed à la carte or in concert. Perhaps a few chapters have already been peer-edited, allowing me to focus on the other, unrevised chapters.
Every project is totally unique and so editing and budgeting strategies vary. I am always straightforward and accommodating as I lay out service options and recommendations for moving forward.
CAN I CHECK YOUR REFERENCES?
I don’t make my client list public, but if you are interested in how good a fit your work and my editing would be, please do get in touch with me. Tell me a bit about your research and your goals, and I will in turn reach out to some of my clients whose work with me was somewhat akin to what you’re envisioning for your own project. When they consent to be contacted by you, I will pass along their information and you can speak with them directly.
YOU TREAT COPYEDITING AS ONE WORD. WHY?
Yes, some resources use “copy editing” and “copy editor”—or even “copy-editing” and “copy-editor.” These other forms are not wrong, but I close the compounds by using no spaces or hyphens. I do this because the English language is alive, and compound terms evolve toward being closed.
Since The Chicago Manual of Style now uses “copyeditor” and “copyediting,” I feel justified in embracing the more evolved, closed terms! Also, these words are unlikely to be confusing or misleading. So why not save the space and the punctuation and just close them up?
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU USE WHILE EDITING?
In addition to the academic style manuals, I consult Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Garner’s Modern English Usage. While copyediting, I also make use of classics: Words into Type and Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage. Based on the sheer number of its volumes I own and regularly read, I can highly recommend the Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing series.
I’M STRAPPED FOR TIME. CAN WE BOTH WORK ON MY DOCUMENTS SIMULTANEOUSLY?
It depends on what kind of editing I am doing. With a developmental assessment, simultaneous work is possible because I’m not actually making changes to the documents themselves.
With direct edits (copyediting, stylistic edits, page-by-page developmental editing), though, it is very important that there only be one master version of a document. That is, if I have your document and am making direct changes to it, you should not also be working on the document at the same time.
See what I mean?
The process needs to be as linear as possible, like so:
Now, if you can keep track of your own changes so that you can input them later into the edited version that I return to you, go for it! There’s no reason to shut off your creative and critical mind while I have the document.
Also, you can have more than one person looking at your document (Tweed and, for instance, a peer reviewer) as long as only one person is actually inserting changes into the document. You’ll just manually input the other changes once you get the edited version back.
Adhering to this protocol will make everything easier, faster, and more affordable for all involved. Replicating work already done once is no fun for anybody.
WHO DESIGNED YOUR WEBSITE?
It was a team effort! When TweedEditing.com had lost its luster, Cadia Marketing updated the framework and gave me the tools to freshen everything up. Whatever facility you currently have with site building and social media, Cadia will meet you where you are and bring your online presence up to speed.
Add Your Own
I’m adding new questions as they arise. If you have a specific question or one that you think would be helpful to address here, why don’t you submit it?
Ultimately, not all smart writing becomes published scholarship. Some just stagnates.
You may be allowing some writing projects to languish in various stages of completion. So when you bring someone else on board, you don’t just reap the benefit of added expertise. Enlisting me as your editor rejuvenates idle projects and keeps you on track for scholarly success.