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Some things academia will never learn

Picture courtesy Elijah Hail, Unsplash

WHAT is it about proofreading and editing that academics find so hard to understand?

Yet again a university student has requested my help in preparing their thesis for submission.

And yet again, and much as I would welcome the work, I have had to say no.

There are several reasons for refusal, but the main one is time.

The student has set a deadline for return of the completed edit five days on from sending the request.

No fees have been quoted or agreed. None of the specifics have been discussed. Nothing has been signed.

And no time has been allowed for an exchange of queries and answers on points an editor/proofreader might find when fine-tuning close to 43,000 words on the subject of finance.

Despite all this, the client clearly expects to be given rush job priority ahead of all else on the editor’s schedule.

I am used to deadlines. Have worked under their pressure for many years. Really tight, down to the minute daily newspaper deadlines. Often without the chance to check the final version before the Send button is pressed.

But the writing dealt with on a news desk is generally simpler and more concise than the content of most theses and dissertations I have dealt with.

Academics, however, appear blissfully unaware of all that is entailed for an editor to provide the thoroughly reviewed, polished and error-free manuscripts they rightly expect.

Professional editing bodies regularly contact universities and colleges to promote members’ services. They stress the need to allow ample time. They suggest students schedule a period between completion and submission of long enough for an editor to do a quality job.

But it rarely happens.

Students therefore risk ending up  with either a rushed edit by a raw beginner prepared to burn the midnight oil for zero wages, or at the mercy of the many online sweat shop services promising the earth and delivering bulldust.

Is it worth it? After all those years of study, research and writing surely your thesis or dissertation deserves better. So, a few pointers:

Select and appoint your editor well in advance of your manuscript’s completion.

Provide information about yourself, your writing experience, your facility with the English language (often it is not the student’s primary language).

Give an estimate of the final word length of your work.

Discuss and agree how long they will need to meet your deadline.

Outline the subject and the theme.

Provide details of specific submission requirements regarding style and references.

Be prepared for professional fees to be charged. Many editors are full-time freelancers trying to earn a fair wage for skilled work.

Maybe such guidelines are all too simple for the arcane and complex world of academia where ten words tend to be preferred to three.

But let’s give them a try. Win-win, as the catchword goes.

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