Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Secret to Success: Hiring a Professional Editor

One of the secrets of academic success is that many academics use professional editors to help them move towards publication. This may come as a surprise if you are not aware of this common practice, but it is a strategy worth trying for many academic writers.


When I was in graduate school, I met with one of my mentors – a new Assistant Professor – and asked her if she planned to submit an article based on a recent talk she had given. She told me that the manuscript was too long and she was considering hiring a professional editor to get it from 10,000 to 8,000 words. I was astonished.

I had no idea that academics used professional editors, and something about it did not seem right. The idea that an intellectual would pay someone to do their intellectual labor did not sit well with me.

It was not until many years later, after I finished graduate school and had a job of my own, that I came to see the benefits of using a professional editor. Moreover, I began to use one myself. In this post, I will discuss three of the benefits to using a professional editor. 1) Many academics do not have the skills to edit their own work. Using a professional editor is one way to teach yourself those skills. 2) Professional editors are just that, professionals. This means that they can edit your work quickly and professionally and save you time. 3) Using a professional editor can help get your work accepted at top journals.

Using a professional editor will improve your writing

Most graduate programs do not include writing training. As a consequence, many academics are not very good writers. We split verbs, dangle modifiers, use too many adjectives, use long and convoluted sentences, mis-use words, and misplace punctuation marks. Using a professional editor will help you to see which errors you commit most frequently, and to correct them. The first time I used an editor, I learned grammar and style rules I never had known before and realized that I repeated the same errors over and over again. The best way to find out which errors you make most frequently is to have a professional edit your text and tell you.

Using a professional editor will save you time

For those of you on the tenure clock, time is of the essence. The less time you spend poring over every detail of your article, the quicker you can get it under review and accepted. Paying a professional editor a couple of hundred dollars to turn your almost-finished article into a well-polished piece of work can be a fantastic investment. It is no secret that many academics are perfectionists. Paying someone to do the final editing can take off some of that pressure to be perfect and save you a lot of time. It may seem like a lot of money to pay for an editor, but, sometimes, you have to ask yourself: "What is the cost of not hiring an editor?" Additionally, if you have research funds, this is a perfectly legitimate use of them.

Using a professional editor will help you get more articles accepted

A well-written paper gives you an edge in the peer review process. When reviewers receive papers that have grammatical errors, it turns them off. Many think that your grammatical carelessness could be indicative of carelessness in other areas. If you write “loose” instead of “lose,” perhaps you coded a variable incorrectly or did not transcribe your interview quotes or archival documents with precision. On the other hand, having an article free of grammatical and stylistic errors allows reviewers to focus exclusively on the quality of your work, and not on your minor errors. Even if your article is not accepted, the feedback you receive will be more useful as the reviewers’ critiques will not be influenced by their negative opinions of your writing.

Have a nearly finished article on your desk that you are nervous about sending out? Consider sending it to a professional editor to help you get to that last hurdle of finishing and submitting it.

Looking for a professional editor?

As people often ask me to recommend professional editors, I keep a list of active professional editors. Hopefully one of these editors will work out for you. Like writers, editors have different styles, and it can be hard to find one whose style matches your own.

Kate Epstein's helped many writers bring their books into the world. She'll point out the weaknesses in your arguments, show you how to use structure to make your writing easier to read, and all the while cheerlead for your work. Assistant Professor of Sociology Joan Maya Mazelis at Rutgers University wrote, "Whether early or late in your writing process, whether you need help hashing out ideas and figuring out what you want to say or you need line-by-line editing services to make your arguments clearer and stronger, Kate is an excellent developmental editor!" You can find her at or email her at

Here are Kate's 2015 prices:

$75/hour for substantive editing (10% off for students and post-docs)
$85/hour for coaching (10% off for students and post-docs)
query critique and feedback $90 (flat fee)
publishing consultation for folks dealing with trade publishers $125/hour
literary contract review $200 (flat)
copyediting $0.02/word (see website for some additional fees that apply for extra checking)
thesis prep (making a dissertation conform to official guidelines) $45/hour

rush fee 10%, typically only if a client’s schedule absolutely requires working at night/on the weekend/on a holiday

I've really enjoyed working with Kristy Johnson: she's fast, knows her stuff, has an eagle eye, and brings what I have found to be very useful insights to my writing (in other words, she's not afraid to tell me when I make no sense). So the next time you find yourself in the final stages of writing a manuscript you've read one too many times, let Kristy give it a fresh look, clean up your mess, and get you one step closer to publication! I no longer send out an article without passing it by Kristy first, and my nerves are the better for it. You can email her at

Kristy S. Johnson –MFA in creative writing, Freelance Editor for 10 years.
Focuses: Dissertations/Thesis, Academic Articles/Book Chapters, Newsletters, Annual Reports, CVS/Resumes, Fiction and Non- Fiction Books, etc. Field focuses: Humanities, Social Sciences and Education. Services & Fees: Proofreading/Copy Editing, $2/page, Content Editing, $4/page (non-book length), Content/Copy Editing for books negotiable.

Kathleen (Sarah) Wood, an editor in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has provided editing and transcription services for academics and other professionals throughout the country since 1989. She has edited dissertations, proposals, papers, and books for professors and students in a broad range of fields. She has extensive experience in transcription of interviews and focus groups for qualitative researchers. Her business sector experience includes report editing and research assistance for marketing companies, transcription of oral histories, newsletter formatting and editing, and more. For more information on her services, she can be contacted at, or 734-929-2866

Morelia is an English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English translator who specializes in producing thorough, high-quality media and academic translations. She also offers editing and proofreading services and takes great care to provide quality work for your media and academic needs.

Contact info:


  1. If you do use a professional editor (I have not), are you supposed to let the editor of the journal to which you are submitting an article know? I would think yes, but am not sure.

  2. It is not common practice to advise the journal editor. Also, I think it is largely irrelevant. A professional editor will not change your arguments or data. He or she will simply ensure that your writing style conforms to academic writing norms. Once your article is accepted for publication, it will be copy-edited again to fit the specific norms of the journal.

  3. That makes sense. Thank you!

  4. I have seen it written in the instructions for some journals that you must acknowledge any writing assistance you receive and how this assistance was paid for. Wouldn't having professional editing fall into this category?

  5. Anonymous: I would have to see the instructions to know. The instructions I have seen indicate you should acknowledge any grants you have received. But, I suspect if it says "writing assistance" specifically then, yes, you should acknowledge it.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful advice! I have found your articles very very helpful!

  7. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging! Professional Editing Services

  8. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Professional Editing Services

  9. Tanya, thank you for the helpful and informative article. I am in the process of revising a book manuscript that will probably end up being 300 pages long or so. Would you recommend sending my work to a professional editor before or after submitting the book proposal to publishers? Thanks!

  10. My company, JournalEdit, has been helping scholars and research professionals with their scientific communication needs since 2012.  We have a global network of 300+ experienced editors (PhD, MD) with expertise across a breadth of medical, science, and engineering fields.  

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