Most academics who wish to publish in English baulk at engaging an academic editor. There are several reasons for this. Academics tend to be highly educated and accomplished individuals. They may feel slightly embarrassed by the idea of sending their work to an academic editor, especially if their level of English proficiency is at the low end. Others, including those who speak English as a second language, have had success publishing in English. They assume that if they’ve done it before, they can do it again. Finally, there are native English speakers who are confident they need neither an English expert nor an academic editor.
The truth is that every academic author, even native English speakers, could benefit from the assistance of a professional academic editor. Here’s why.
Two heads are better than one
Everyone benefits from having their academic writing reviewed by someone else. This is doubly true for non-native English speakers. Two heads are better than one, but it helps if the second head is not one of your collaborators. The purpose of academic editing is to make your writing clear, powerful and as concise as possible. You don’t want a collaborator substituting in their own judgments and phrasing. You want the style to be perfected, not the content. Nevertheless, an academic editor can also help you organise your content in such a way as to deliver the most logical flow of your argument.
The importance of being ‘bilingual’
An academic editor needs more than good English language writing skills. They need to have a good grasp of the academic field in which they are editing. Each area of enquiry has its own idioms and idiosyncrasies. The best academic editors are ‘bilingual’ in the sense that they speak excellent English and are fluent in the language of the field they are editing. This combination produces the best English language academic writing and subsequently maximizes your chances of journal editors passing your paper onto peer reviewers.
Saving time and frustration are two of the best reasons to engage an academic editor. We all know the mammoth pressure placed on researchers at some hyper-competitive institutions. Paper writing and editing are time-consuming, particularly when your number of co-authors is high. Time is the one commodity we cannot make more of. The time one spends poring over a manuscript is time one could spend seeing patients, performing surgery, designing and performing experiments, or even writing grant applications. The best time managers off-load tasks they are less good at to those who are better placed to fulfil those tasks. That way they can put their precious time to its best use.
Engaging an academic editor can actually improve your writing. Many academics learn the best ways in which to express their work in English by reading their paper after its review by a subject-specific editor.
Perhaps the best reason to engage an academic editor is to ensure that your colleagues actually read your work. Who doesn’t want to raise their citation impact? Even interested colleagues – and potential collaborators – may put aside your articles if they are poorly written. If you want others to cite your work, let alone read it, it’s in your interest to ensure that your writing makes the best impact it can.