Whether it’s a thesis chapter or a research paper, a grant application or a cover letter, your first draft represents hours of work. After so much effort, the editing stage can seem a little daunting, but it’s so important to ensure your writing is as clear and polished as possible.
Taking the time to identify and remove any errors and inconsistencies will pay dividends, but where should you start? Here are our top tips for editing your manuscript!
Take a break
If you’ve just finished your first draft, put it away for a week before you begin editing. This will give your brain a rest and let you come back to the document with fresh eyes. You’ll easily spot mistakes that you skimmed over in the past.
Read in a different format
If you wrote your paper on a computer, try printing out a hard copy to edit, or save paper and just change the font or formatting of the text instead. This altered appearance encourages your mind to take a fresh look at your work. Consider reading your work aloud too. It may seem strange, but you’ll likely hear awkward or confusing phrases that your eyes have missed.
Improve the flow
A piece of academic writing should flow from one paragraph to the next. You might describe a major global problem in the first paragraph, explain how it has previously been tackled in the next, outline the current gaps in the knowledge, then state how you intend to fill them. Check your arguments are presented in a sensible order and that you provide the reader with the information they need to understand your results.
What’s the point of each paragraph?
Each paragraph should focus on a single argument or topic. In academic writing, many paragraphs should begin with an introductory sentence, then a more in-depth discussion of the topic, followed by a concluding sentence. This final sentence might lead on to the next paragraph or highlight gaps in the current body of knowledge.
Make it concise
Even if you’re not submitting a grant application or journal article with a strict word limit, you should always make your writing is as clear and concise as possible. Try to remove sentences or even whole paragraphs containing information which is not critical to the reader’s understanding of your conclusions. You could also substitute wordy phrases for more concise expressions, as suggested below.
Quick tip: Make a sentence more concise by changing “These results show that X was bigger than Y” to “X was bigger than Y”. #AcWri
— Sarah @ PLE (@primroseediting) October 17, 2018
Check your formatting
You must be consistent with the style you use throughout your document. Don’t switch from U.S. American to British English halfway through (for help with the different types of English, see our blog post: Using British, U.S. American and Oxford English in scientific writing), use a single referencing style and avoid subtle inconsistencies (for example, don’t switch between “Fig.” and “Figure”). If you are submitting a research article, your target journal may have specific style guidelines for the line spacing, page numbering, heading styles etc., so be sure to follow these to maximise your chances of publication.
Don’t trust spellcheck
Spellchecking programs are very useful tools, but don’t rely on them too heavily. They can’t spot errors involving an actual word (for example, you might be writing about “pant science” instead of “plant science”!), and they can struggle with homophones (two words which sound alike but have different meanings). For a fun demonstration of the problems with spellcheck, check out this poem: http://www.paulhensel.org/teachspell.html
If you are struggling to edit your manuscript or just need to save time, consider working with a professional editor. Specialist scientific language editors will understand your meaning and help you present your work as clearly and concisely as possible.
Whether your manuscript needs a complete overhaul or you just need a little help perfecting your abstract, let Primrose Language Editing make your manuscript shine. Our services include full language editing, journal-specific manuscript formatting and abstract formatting. Find out more by clicking here.
Until the end of January 2019, you can get a 20% discount on all our services by quoting “AcWriMo18” when you submit your manuscript. We’re looking forward to working with you.