My very first blog back in 2013 was on how to recognise a spam or fraudulent email from a bank or telecoms provider in your inbox. Often there are a few little things that are not quite right. The use of the corporate image may be slightly wrong. There may be slightly odd wording or minor errors in the text. It may be slightly inconsistent with previous emails. These are all clues to look more closely at the communication.
The ability to recognise spam, scam or fraudulent emails or texts highlights the importance of editing in professional communication. People don’t notice when it’s right, but they often notice when you get it wrong.
People now receive so many digital communications, both legitimate and not, they often don’t have the time or cognitive energy to consider them thoroughly. There’s even an Australian government website, Scamwatch, which is constantly updated with alerts to new scams.
With increasing cybersecurity concerns, professional communication is vital. Any call to action needs to be clear. Legitimate organisations do not want their communications to be dismissed or ignored by the intended audience.
Does this mean spammers should use professional editors? No, the message is that organisations that need to be taken seriously and influence people to take action have to ensure high quality digital communications.
Editors can help ensure:
appropriate headings to get attention
appropriate structure of a message and subheadings
appropriate images that match the content
consistent and appropriate tone
consistent use of the corporate image such as the logo, corporate colours or the font for the text
clear writing with no errors
clear calls to action, recognising privacy and security concerns.
In September 2016, I was pleased to announce here that I was now an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors.
What is an Accredited Editor?
An Accredited Editor has demonstrated their professional competence and understanding of editing standards, skills and knowledge by passing the Institute of Professional Editors’ three-hour accreditation exam. The exam, administered by IPEd’s Accreditation Board, measures an editor’s competence against the benchmark of the Australian standards for editing practice.
Editors who pass the accreditation exam are certified by the IPEd Accreditation Board and can use the postnominal AE (for ‘accredited editor’).
The accreditation scheme offers Australian editors a mechanism to demonstrate their competence and provides potential employers with confidence in the skills of the editors they use.
Accredited editors must apply for renewal every five years. In August 2021, IPEd advised I had met the requirements to renew my status as an Accredited Editor. I demonstrated:
ongoing work as an editor
ongoing professional development including participation in IPEd meetings and conferences
support of the profession, through my membership of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing and Pay Rates Working Party and as a mentor in the mentoring program.
See my previous posts about IPEd conferences in 2017 here, in 2019 here and in 2021 here, fair hourly pay rates for editors here, and indicative costs for academic editing here.
The Institute of Professional Editors, known as IPEd, has released guidance for potential clients on the costs of editing a range of academic work including journal articles, theses and grant applications. The indicative costs and notes on the range of factors which may affect costs are available here. Note the IPEd website is under review in August 2021 and the location may change.
The indicative costs complement the fair hourly pay rates for self-employed editors released by IPEd in June 2020. See more information here.
I am pleased to be a member of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing which developed this new information, and also a member of IPEd’s Pay Rates Working Party which developed the fair hourly pay rates in 2020.
Many clients who have not used a professional editor before may not be aware of the likely costs. These indicative costs for academic editing allow clients, particularly research students, to budget and prepare well ahead of time, regardless of which editor they use.
There are many sources of funding which can contribute to cover the costs of professional editing, and clients should be aware of all the sources available to them before approaching an editor. These sources can include funds within the school, Faculty or university, national and international scholarships and grants, supervisor research funds, project funds or external sources.
The IPEd costs are indicative only, and editors will always want to see the full work to be edited before providing a quote which is fair to both the client and the editor.
Please contact me about editing your academic work: email@example.com
In his presentation on editors as boundary umpires, IPEd patron Roly Sussex provided examples of editors’ role in deciding if language is in or out over the boundary, and what to do about it. He noted the boundary may be hard to discern and recognised there are intense disagreements about socio-cultural boundaries on race, gender, sex, ableism and ethnicity.
Several speakers provided guidance on being more inclusive in our editing practice, in many different dimensions, with powerful examples from lived experience. There is always more to learn, and all professional editors are striving to be more aware of and support:
inclusive and respectful language and editing
culturally safe practices
inclusive publishing for people with print disabilities
improved web accessibility and web design
plain English writing.
As a member of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing, I presented an update on our work and discussed navigating academic editing in a COVID world. Editors must be aware of and respond to changing environments and opportunities. I was pleased to announce that indicative costs for a range of academic editing work developed by the committee are now available on the IPEd website here, to provide guidance to clients.
This was the third IPEd conference I have attended. I know from my previous reports on 2017 here and 2019 here that it takes time for me to absorb and reflect on all the information presented to improve my own editing practice for clients and contribute to the profession. There are many useful resources to follow up to be the agent of change I discussed here last blog.
In another follow up to my blog on editing as decision making, editors make many decisions, meaning they can be powerful agents of change. Some decisions are about the big picture and some are about the detail, but the aim is to communicate more clearly and meet the needs of writers for the intended readers.
Editors edit a wide range of material for a wide range of clients, showing they can be agents for change in many different areas, but particularly in public communication.
For instance, as agents of change, editors can:
Edit health information and risk to communicate better, as in COVID times
Improve job and grant applications to help people access new opportunities and funding
Design surveys to help collect accurate information for policy and decision making
Write clear instructions and advice to help people do the right thing
Ensure well-designed government forms so people can apply for benefits and entitlements
Apply accurate tags and labels on website material to help users find the right information quickly and easily
Provide headings and structure in long documents so information is not overlooked
Ensure references are authoritative and have complete information so they can be followed up and checked.
Often clear communication is about simple language and writing. Sometimes being an agent of change is about ensuring inclusive language, recognising and respecting the diversity of communities.
Editing is also more than just the words. The overall presentation of material, including text and non-text elements, can also affect clear communication. A well-presented graphic may be more powerful than text, and editors can also advise on graphical material.
Following up my February blog on editing being about making decisions, one difficult decision in achieving consistency is when to use hyphens or not. I spend a lot of editing time considering hyphens.
After finally reading bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss recently, it confirmed my ideas on hyphenation. Over time, my increasing personal preference is to avoid them and use either one combined word or two separate words, and only hyphenate where absolutely essential to clarify the meaning.
As always in editing, it is important to be consistent throughout a document. There are several approaches to consistency in decisisions about hyphens.
Choose one dictionary and follow its recommendations, although it may not contain every combination.
Aim for internal consistency within a document, with either a minimalist or maximalist approach.
Be aware of a writer’s preferences or an institutional style guide, if any, for hyphenation.
Writers and organisations often have their own preference, ranging from minimalists with no hyphens at all, to maximalists hyphenating all compound words and descriptive phrases. Editors should check carefully before making major changes to hyphenation throughout a long document such as adding or deleting hyphens. A style sheet can ensure consistency and make editing decisions easier.
My previous blog here outlines some helpful uses of hyphens:
Clarify meaning such as re-sign (sign again) versus resign (leave a job).
Clarify meaning in compound words such as disease-free.
Prevent misreading of words starting with prefixes such as anti, ex and re followed by vowels such as re-enter, but even this use is declining.
A traditional use of hyphens in descriptive phrases such as ‘in the long-term view’ or ‘in a 3-month period’ is not usually needed to clarify meaning and avoid confusion, but it can depend on the specific context.
With complex material to present in a long research document, it can be difficult to get the structure right, particularly in the introduction.
A good technique to organise material is to move from the general to the specific. This tip works for the whole document and for the introduction and for other sections.
In the introduction or first section, write enough to introduce the broad topic and put your work in context. Then go into detail. Diving straight into the detail may lose some readers. Similarly, too much general background that is well known to readers may leave them wondering if there is anything new and whether it is worth reading on.
Establish the purpose of your writing, what you are contributing, and why it is worth readers continuing to read on. Be aware of technical terms or jargon in the introduction. Are these terms helpful or offputting? How well known are they?
Reverse this structure technique at the other end of the document. When discussing results or drawing conclusions, move from the specific back to the general. Summarise your work, then broaden it out to generalisations. There may be limitations and caveats to note when moving from the specific back to the general.
More tips for structure:
Consider the audience and their level of familiarity with the material when deciding where to start in the general context.
Use the title, headings and subheadings to set the scene and prepare the reader for the content in the whole work and each section, and the context.
Use a top-down approach to structure by developing the headings first, then the subheadings and use content in dot points under each heading as a guide for your writing.
Editing is about making thousands of decisions about text – at the level of the character, word, sentence, paragraph and document – often all at the same time.
Editing decisions can be about spelling, punctuation, grammar, tone, word choice, expression, accuracy, clarity, format and presentation, and much more. Editors don’t just look at the word in front of them, but also have to be aware of and remember the rest of the document.
Editing is also about making decisions about numbers, claims and facts – does that sound right or does it need checking by the editor or client?
Every one of an editor’s thousands of decisions must be translated into action. In some cases, the editor implements a decision with just one keystroke, perhaps adding or deleting a character. In other cases, the editor may highlight a choice for the writer to make, or simply draw attention to something that may need further checking or thought. Editors often type comments such as “Do you mean X or do you mean Y?”
Some editing decisions are about right and wrong, and some are about improvements. Accurate and quick decision-making takes skill, experience and judgement. Professional editors who edit all the time can make editing decisions efficiently.
This explains why professional editors will always want to see a piece of work before quoting to understand the level of decision-making involved, and therefore the effort and time required.
It is very competitive to get research published in top journals, but publication is vital to academic careers. As well as ensuring papers meet the journal’s requirements for both content and format in the initial submission, the review process is also important for authors.
Journals send submissions to reviewers with expertise in the field, and the reviewers comment on how to improve the quality and publishability of the paper. The review process can take time, as journals receive many submissions and many reviewers work voluntarily. There may be several rounds of review over months and often years.
Some tips to consider when resubmitting a paper and responding to reviewers:
Be polite and respectful. Politeness goes a long way, especially if disagreeing with a reviewer’s comment.
Make clear what has changed in the revised paper.
If you disagree with a comment, make clear what has NOT changed, and why not.
Paste in any revised text from the revised paper to the response to make it easy for the journal editor to see the changes.
Include references to page or line numbers of revised text in the revised paper.
Be clear whether referring to the original or a revised version of the paper.
Less is more: explain the reasons for your response succinctly.
It can be frustrating for authors to receive reviewer comments which suggest taking the paper in a different direction or with a different emphasis or which require extensive re-analysis or even new data. Reviewers may also not agree with each other and may make conflicting suggestions. Authors do not have to agree with all comments, but do need to justify and explain their decisions.
If a reviewer has commented on the language or the need for editing in a paper, authors should ensure the response to the reviewers is also well written and edited.
As well as editing papers for initial submission, academic editors can also edit response letters to the journal editor and reviewers. Editors can check whether all the comments have been appropriately addressed and check the response has an appropriate tone. This can save time in the review process and enhance the likelihood of publication.
This blog is my 100th blog since I started my editing business Right with Rhonda and website in late 2013. My very first blog in November 2013 was on How to identify spam with all its unedited errors.
Many blogs are based on issues which arise in my day to day work as a self-employed academic editor and as a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors. Thanks to all my clients over the years for providing such interesting material to edit and making me think.
I was pleased to announce in my blog in September 2016 that, having passed the Institute of Professional Editors’ accreditation exam, I am an Accredited Editor (AE).
My blog in August 2019 on editing by Zoom was ahead of the widespread use of Zoom in 2020 due to COVID-19. I am used to working efficiently in a home office, but my year also included editing papers on COVID, with the importance of clear communication explained here and here.