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Three main kinds of editing

This is about what I can do for you and what you can do yourself to reduce research editing costs.

I explain different kinds of editing, to try to avoid the confusion that might arise because of overlapping terms. The first level of service is proofreading and once additional language based services are added this moves to copyediting. Structural editing is a completely different type of service.

You will also see the editing you can do to avoid or reduce the need for professional services.

1. What are the main kinds of editing?

Proofreading can mean a simple check for grammar and spelling but when it comes to my form of checking this is more thorough as I look at grammar in its widest sense: the precise conveying of meaning. Perfectly grammatically correct English sentences can appear vague, whether they are written by people who grow up learning English as a first language or a second or third one.

Copyediting involves improving the expression of meaning. For my clients this often means, for instance, reducing repetition, condensing long sentences into shorter ones, finding appropriate synonyms, using more accurate vocabulary and altering the sequencing of ideas to improve the flow.

Structural editing can overlapwith this but at a higher level. For academic editing, this may consist of comments instead of or sometimes as well as track changes. Supervisors rather than writing professionals are responsible for this level in the case of higher degree research candidates’ writing. Academics can benefit from structural editing for research papers, chapters and books, especially if it comes from someone with a working knowledge of your field. Suggestions can range from ideas for the graphical representation of information through to the cohesion and synthesis of the research content. Structural editing is also known as substantive or developmental editing.

2. What editing can you do by yourself?

Bert Blocken, in his forthright style has written about the setbacks to avoid when submitting research articles to journals. While many seem fairly obvious, some remind me of errors I come across which are easily made.

It is recommended to treat the relevant literature with courtesy. Sometimes researchers state that some gap they want to work on has been “ignored” or “neglected”. This is better phrased in a more positive way by stating the focus of the literature. Then you could contrast this with your own intended goal.

Also suggested is to keep in mind your method and its limitations so that you do not overstate the importance of your contribution. At the same time, do not underestimate it. Emphasising its potential implications can enhance the research’s significance, so long as you use suitably moderate language.

It goes without saying that we all need to write objectively. Some research candidates seem to feel pressure to affirm a policy from their countries by restating positive comments about this policy made by others, without the supportive facts and figures to back this up. Some candidates have been intimidated by respondents not to pursue lines of enquiry which might seek such supportive evidence. This will not satisfy those who are examining your thesis. Blocken gives a different kind of example of subjective writing.

There is a balance in writing concisely but clearly enough to fully explain what you mean. Avoid ambiguity and inconsistency. This is probably where a good copyeditor (or a trusted colleague) can be quite helpful.

Here is a detailed explanation of the Blocken’s list.