Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How a professional editor can help your writing

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 paper 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. I realized that editors do not do intellectual labor for you. Instead, they polish your prose and allow your intellectual contributions to become clearer. Moreover, I began to use an editor myself. I realized that, whereas I may have great (even publishable) ideas, I had not learned how to present them in the best possible form, and a professional editor could help me with that.

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 you 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 you get more work under review, and, ultimately, published.

Edit Ruthlessly

Using a professional editor will improve your writing.

Most graduate programs do not include any 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, misuse words, and misplace punctuation marks. Using a professional editor will help you to see which errors you most frequently commit, 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 commit 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  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.

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,” or if you code a variable incorrectly or did not transcribe your interview quotes or archival documents with precision, reviewers may look down on this. 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.

How to find a professional editor

I often receive emails requesting recommendations for professional editors. There are five editors that I can recommend, and I have listed their information below.

There are at least three levels of editing: (1) developmental editing; (2) editing for style and content; and (3) proofreading. Developmental editing is the most time-consuming and costly and requires the highest level of expertise. Proofreading involves fixing errors and editing is somewhere int he middle.

Like writers, editors have different styles, and it can be hard to find one whose style matches your own.

Each of these professional editors are people that scholars have recommended to me. Here's a brief description of their services, as well as their contact information:


Kate Epstein has 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

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 12 years.
Focuses: Dissertations/Thesis, Academic Articles/Book Chapters, Book Proposals, Job Applications, CVs/Resumes, Fiction and Non-Fiction Books, etc. Field focuses: Humanities, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology and other Social Sciences, Linguistics, and Education. Services & Fees (non-book length): Proofreading/Copy Editing, $4/page, Content Editing, $5/page, Content/Copy Editing, $7/p; Book length quotes negotiable. Dissertation Flat Rate (150-250 pages): $800, 1st pass only, 2nd pass review $100 chapter.


SCRIBBR is a proofreading service designed for theses and dissertations that can also be used for articles. SCRIBBR is a great service especially if you are on a tight timeline, as they work with a pool of editors and can turn your work around very quickly. The service is high quality and very professional. 

I sent SCRIBBR a 6,000-word article I have been working on for some time.  The editor, Elaine, found many errors that I had overlooked and suggested several places where I should insert citations. I am much more confident about sending the piece out for review. The proofreading price was also very reasonable at 114 euros for a 72-hour turnaround.

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:

--------------------------------- If a professional editor is not within your budget, I can recommend Grammarly - a Chrome extension and tool that automatically checks your grammar. You can get either the free or premium version. Grammarly finds most typographical and even stylistic mistakes. I have been using the premium version as a Chrome extension and it has found mistakes in my blog posts, email, and social media posts. It is kind of like the Word grammar checker, but a much better version of that.


  1. Extremely useful advice. Thank you so much for putting this post together.

  2. nice work i hope you will come up with more stuff like this as i did. click here

  3. As an editor myself, I can only say thank you for putting all of this information out there to your fellow academics! All of my work has come word of mouth, and I've formed great relationships with authors across disciplines. It's simply too hard to try to edit your own work, as you are too close to it. A fresh set of eyes and a strong, but kind, edit can do so much to clarify an argument and really make it shine. I love my work and really respect academics who use editors skillfully (some do not actually learn from the process, and that can be frustrating).

  4. Great advice! This was echoed by a senior scholar at a meet the editors session. The senior scholar urged those interested in publishing to send their work to an editor first. He said this has helped him publish a lot more!

  5. Hey Tanya,

    Thanks for all this great contact info. I definitely agree about the importance of editing, and it's great to hear about some resources I haven't tried.

    In other news - saw this article about Streak, a new organizational tool that integrates with Gmail, and thought you might be interested:

    Hope all is well.
    Emily Kennedy

    1. Hi Emily! Wow. that looks intense! I have been working on an email organization system for a while, and basically rely on the search function to find emails that I have archived. Have you started using Streak?