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!