Thursday, January 28, 2016

Copyediting in Academic Writing

Checking your own writing can be a nasty task because you tend to miss lots of your own mistakes. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t do without a professional editor or proofreader: you can manage this yourself if you are attentive enough and have plenty of aces in the hole.

My previous article was devoted to editing itself and this one will be on copyediting. Moreover, it will be the last one from the series of after-writing text processing because content editing is simple and proofreading is a combination of editing and copyediting tricks.

So, we proceed to copyediting. It is a stage when you have to spot all the grammar and spelling mistakes: it means that you aim at the “landmine” enemy because they are tiny and not visible from the 1st sight. This stage needs all your attention and concentration and that’s why you better use some of the techniques that can help you boost your focus:

  • Use grammar checkers: I know that it’s obvious but some people radically avoid using them because free grammar checkers are useless (not all of them) and paid ones are expensive (true story). The truth is that you can find a free grammar checker that will indicate all your spelling mistakes at least. And for grammar pitfalls you’ll have to use your thorough eye.
  • Watch for 3rd person singular: the most common mistake in academic writing is –s with verbs when there is he/she/it. Why’s that so? Because academic sentences are long and even if you ace at English grammar, you can miss this sneaky –s among the clauses.
  • Use the right preposition with the phrasal verb: you know how it’s going, you put the wrong preposition near the verb and it has a completely another meaning. So, always check the phrase in the dictionary or use corpuses.
  • Check for commas with that/which: relative clauses are little devils of English syntax and punctuation, so you have to be sure where to put the comma and where you don’t need it at all.
  • Don’t mix up which/who/that.
  • Avoid filler words: filler words are indicators of a conversational tone and you don’t want to have that in an academic paper. So, delete all the “it’s like”, “sort of”, “um”, “you know”, etc.;
  • Eradicate redundancies: it means that you have to remove unnecessary repetitions because academic writing is no place for extra words: everything must be clear and precise. Check out some redundancies that must be eradicated:
  • Eliminate contractions: they are likely to be found in informal writing but not in a research essay or dissertation.

These are the basic things that must be noticed first and foremost. Of course, there are more mistakes that can hide in your texts but they are individual. So, you must observe what corrections you make not to miss the mistakes the next time. I wish you luck with your writing! Be attentive all the time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Editing Techniques for Freelance Academic Writers

As you have seen from my previous post, I started to write a series of articles on after-writing text processing. I strongly believe that writing is only 50% of producing a great piece, the rest is on editing, content editing, copyediting and proofreading. You have to be really attentive with writing because it is much easier to notice someone else’s mistake than yours. So, I’ll try to grasp the details of every stage of this process and I’ll start from editing.

As I’ve mentioned before, editing is the 1st step you have to take after writing your rough draft. During this stage you check the text for structure mismatches that can spoil the big picture. For instance, you have three paragraphs in your essay but the 1st one is 300 words and the 2nd one is two small sentences. Or you see that the sentences are very big and the reader will lose the thread after reading it all. And there can be even minor gaps like full points that should or shouldn’t be at the end of your subheading or something like that.  Of course, it looks inappropriate and that’s what editing is for. But I won’t tell you long lists of 25+ editing techniques that you can find all over the Internet, I’ll just mention three that work best for me:

1)      edit 5 hours after the text has been written;
(after you have just finished the piece, it will seem perfect to you because you’ve worked so hard on it and have had several genius ideas. I don’t want to upset you but it’s surely not perfect and you will see it after some time passes.)

2)      read out loud or use some text-to-speech software;
(while listening to your own words, you’ll perceive them from a different perspective and you may notice not only perfunctory issues but touch upon other text processing stages like content-editing or copyediting.)

3)      change the font of the text.
(if you switch from Times New Roman to Comic Sans, your brain will think that it’s not the same text anymore, that it’s someone else’s. That’s why the possibility that you’ll notice more issues is much higher.)

These are my favorite means of editing and they always work very well. They seem very simple but that shouldn’t worry you: as the 1st stage in text processing, editing with these strategies will be effective enough for the after-writing text processing. So, my dear colleagues, use these techniques and polish your texts with pleasure!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Editing, Content Editing, Copyediting or What the Hell?

When you start typing in the search box “what is the difference between proofread …”, this is what you get:

And you just wanted to make sure that you understand what editing is. But don’t start panicking when you see so many things that other people do with their texts. Although you have thoughts like “OMG, my writing could have been better if I had revised, edited, copyedited, content-edited it before proofreading!”, I’m positive that you did everything abovementioned by just correcting mistakes and making sure that your essay or article looks decent. Believe me: the fact that you didn’t know how all the stages of writing are called (which will be fixed in a few moments) doesn’t make you a bad writer.

When I mentioned “all stages of writing”, I didn’t make a mistake because just spilling out all the words on the paper or into a Word doc is not enough; if you want to do a great job, you need to thoroughly go through your text before sending it to a client. And I’ll tell you how to call every step of this process so that you can structure all the actions in your head, have a chance to show off in front of your employer and can feel how good you are.

So let’s begin.

I know that there are numerous definitions and contradictions regarding differences between different stages of text processing, so I’ll depend on my own classification that I’ve embraced by searching the internet, trying everything in practice and selecting the best ones. Consequently, I’ll refer to editing, content editing, copyediting and proofreading.

·         Editing – you look at your writing from the distance, so to say. You foresee that the structure is right, the organization is logical and your text looks harmonious when you give a quick glance at it. Thus, I sometimes call this stage “above ground”.

·         Content Editing – you check that the content actually meets the requirements of the assignments, whether the facts that you mention are truthful and relevant and if there are any contradictions. Consistency is very important in your career, so be sure to watch it.

·         Copyediting – here is the stage that can be called “underground” because you have to eradicate all the spelling, grammar or stylistic mistakes from your text. I’m sure that you do it regularly but maybe now, knowing how it’s called, you can say to every mistake in your writing “YOU SHALL NOT PASS”.

·         Proofreading – finally the words that freelance academic writers meet so often: on this stage you correct all the tiny winy errors or inconsistencies that could pass your guard before and polish your essay to be perfect before sending it to the client.

And that’s all. Isn’t really that bad, is it? Well, here I have to additionally mention “revising” or “revision” which comprises editing, content editing and copyediting into one word. But I wouldn’t risk missing even one stage during text processing because when you have everything in a crowd in your head, you surely can lose something out.

I hope that this classification will help you deliver academic content of the best quality and you won’t have problems with editing or proofreading anymore.
Good luck, my friends.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

“Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day” by Joan Bolker

When you see such kind of titles, you are sure that the dissertation catastrophe is averted and you can breathe freely. But it’s not completely true: even if you are following the schedule (I don’t even mention you falling behind), 15 minutes a day won’t make the dissertation written on time and the author of “Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day” fully agrees with it.

This book is a quick read (only 150 pages) and if you hope that after covering it you’ll sit and finish your paper, you’re wrong. It also contains some outdated info like pros and cons of using a computer which is understandable due to the time it was written (1997). But I believe that everybody who has a thesis to produce MUST read Joan Bolker. Sounds contradictory? I’ll justify my point. This book:
  • Outlines the process of dissertation writing and you approximately know what you are getting into;
  • Prepares you morally and gives you some food for thought on how to set realistic goals and what barriers you may face down the road;
  • Offers different types of writing for various types of people (free writing, zero draft, writing every day, sketching out your ideas all the time before you move to the next step, write first, etc.).

But those are not the most important things. The whole point of this book is that it forces you to develop a daily writing habit that can keep you from getting stuck (writer’s block is a frequent phenomenon in academic writing). Instead of freaking out that your dissertation is far from the stage it should be on, you can engage in a productive daily routine that will bring you much more fruit than you can imagine. If you find time to work on your project every day, you’ll spend more than 15 minutes and produce great writing. And to end my review of “Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day” by Joan Bolker, I’ll quote Megan from Goodreads: “So this book is not a miracle worker. It doesn't write your dissertation for you. It doesn't even promise what the title suggests it might. But it is honest, sometimes funny, and often inspiring - which is pretty good for a book on writing nonfiction.”