You have that final research paper nearly done, and you want it as flawless as possible before submitting it to your professor.  It’s been suggested that you ought to engage the services of a professional editor.

But wait; what is an editor? What exactly does an editor do? What should you expect from your editor? Below are some tips on what a professional editor can, will, and should do, as well as what s/he cannot, won’t, and shouldn’t do.

What Your Editor Will Do

An editor providing a technical edit, which is the standard level for theses and dissertations, will carefully edit your work for grammar, punctuation, consistency, and continuity. The real beauty of the technical edit, however, is in the little details that can be huge stumbling blocks to good grades or professional publication. In a professional edit, your editor will examine your citations and references with a gimlet eye to make sure they adhere to the style guide you request. Something else they should do is inform you if your current requested level of editing doesn’t include what you need so that you can upgrade your level of editing if necessary.

FirstEditing has editors who are experienced professionals, some with backgrounds in academia. They’re familiar with all the major style guides: APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, Harvard, etc. While some basics are similar in each, there are also slight differences. For example, in APA style, a parenthetical citation would look like this: (Smith, 2009). In Harvard style, the same citation would be: (Smith 2009).

Does all this nit-picky detail matter? To your dissertation committee, it most definitely does. Appearance can be just as important as content, because these professionals have chosen the style they feel easiest to read and most suited to their particular requirements. A technical edit can help you adhere to the style they demand.

What is an Editor? (And why you need one!)

Editors who provide a technical edit also serve as commentators on your work. They point out areas that seem weak or that are exceptionally strong. Your editor will indicate where citations are missing and ask questions whose answers might help clarify a difficult passage. It is better to have an editor make these types of comments than your committee or the journal review panel!

A final plus of technical editing is that it includes a degree of formatting. Editors generally won’t place your charts and diagrams or alphabetize your reference list, but they will make sure your margins are correct and your references are formatted as they should be. They will also make sure your line spacing is consistent, your headers and footers are placed correctly, etc. All this ensures a consistent, professional-looking final product.

Most professional editors also offer running comments within the text. Some editors are very chatty and will comment on almost everything. Others reserve their comments for questions concerning continuity or logic, or to point out a nicely phrased passage.

What Your Editor Will Not Do

First and foremost, your editor will not generate content. In other words, professional editors are not ghostwriters. They do not take your rough outline and create your paper or create your reference list. Their job is to take your rough diamond and polish it to sparkling perfection.

Your editor cannot and should not guarantee that your work will be accepted by a publisher or will earn an “A” from your prof. What your editor can do is polish your work, thereby ensuring that it has the best possible chance of being published/earning an “A.”

Finally, a professional editor should never ignore your concerns and editing instructions. If what you ask for is not practical or is not covered by the editing fee, they should alert you to that fact.

Keep these tips in mind when seeking an editor, and be sure to check out the professional editors at FirstEditing.

Originally posted 10/29/2015 and happily updated 10/26/2017. Thanks for reading!

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