How to find a genuine UK-based academic proofreading service. With so many on-line proofreading companies competing for your business, all promising to be the ‘best UK proofreading service’ (yet many clearly from outside the UK) – how can you tell which to trust and which to avoid?
For most students, it’ll be your first time searching for an academic proofreading service. You may already be aware of cheap companies based overseas – you’ve heard the low quality horror stories, you’ve read about the scams, you been told to watch out for essay mills posing as proofreading or academic editing companies – so how do you choose?
Well, here are a few things to consider:
The top three or four academic proofreading services showing on an internet search are paying a premium to be there, and as anyone can do this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any good. When deciding where to send your unpublished research, thesis, essay, academic assignment or dissertation, it is important to give it a little bit more consideration than simply clicking on a paid search advert.
Genuine companies such as Oxbridge Proofreading do advertise on search engines, but many less reputable companies will look to advertise there too, promising the ‘same’ level of service, but for a much lower cost. Sometimes these companies cover all the paid searches boxes with various different named websites of their own, offering large discounts if you ‘sign up’. Watch out for fairly basic websites in terms of functionality or that are similar looking to each other. These are designed to catch the unsuspecting student. These websites usually haven’t been around for very long and are changed every few months.
It’s safe to argue that if a website has been around for a long time, then they probably deliver on their promises.
But how do you know how long a website has been around? An easy way to see if a website has any provenance is to simply search for the name and see what comes up. So, if www.JoeBloggsProofreading.co.uk are offering ‘50% student discounts’ and rating themselves ‘No.1 UK Academic Proofreaders’, then search for ‘Joe Bloggs Proofreading’. If they are well-established, the search should bring up lots of relevant results on the first page of search, this is because the search engine has been visiting their website for a long time and has indexed everything that they have published. If nothing turns up, then it might be best to avoid Joe Bloggs. (Although, in the interest of fairness, they may be a new business – so it’s certainly worth investigating further before proceeding)
Most UK-based academic proofreading services will have an ethical approach to your work. They won’t add content, develop your arguments or change the meaning – they recognise that this type of help is frowned upon by universities and may be treated as plagiarism – the work must be your own: your thoughts, your ideas, your arguments.
If an academic proofreading service is offering to fill in the gaps, or address your supervisor’s feedback, or provide ‘guidance’ or anything else that means that they will approach your work in an unethical manner, then, as good as it might sound, you may wish to consider their moral compass, and whether or not you want to trust them with your academic future.
Chatting to someone on a pop-up chat box may seem convenient or the modern way, but how do you know who you’re talking to, or where in the world they are? Many of the cheaper academic proofreading services are cheap because their editors and staff are based in countries where the hourly pay rate is low. It may say on their website that they are in the UK, they may be called ‘John’ or ‘Jane’ on the Live Chat, they may have a UK number, they may even have a UK mailing address, but if you call them on the phone and you find that their English isn’t as you might expect, then there’s a good chance that they might be overseas.
It’s always been a source of amusement how so many of these websites offering a ‘professional academic proofreading service’ are so badly written. We know they are looking to catch unsuspecting ESL students, but if you take a little time to read the text on the website – click on a few different pages – you’ll find the English is not quite right. It’ll be awkward in places, with strange expressions and maybe some spelling errors. Do you want these people editing your work? If you have even a little doubt, then trust your gut instinct and move on.
Most UK academic proofreading services with professional editors and office staff operate during office hours from Monday to Friday, and maybe a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. However, you will probably still be able to place an order or make an enquiry and have it dealt with it the next working day.
If a company claims to be open all day, all week and all year – it’s highly probable that they’re not a UK academic proofreading service.
‘Word of mouth’ is probably the single best way to know if a company is genuine, or any good. You wouldn’t send a friend to a proofreading service that has let you down, so if a friend says ‘try these guys’, then they are worth contacting, even if you eventually don’t decide to use them. If your friends haven’t used an academic proofreading service, then ask if they’ve heard about company X or company Y – they may have anecdotal experience to pass on.
Reviews can be helpful, but then again, they can be manipulated. It has been reported there are now companies who charge a fee to create and post enthusiastic on-line reviews. So use some common sense, read through the reviews – see if the comments vary and if they sound like something you might write. If they start to look generic, or many are posted from another country (some sites track the location of the reviewer), or there are lots posted on the same date – that may be something to consider.
Also, don’t be too quick to judge by a bad review – those can also be manipulated. Genuine companies will do their best to help their clients, so if you see a negative review, you should also see a response from the company and this will tell you a lot about their attitude and customer service.
Be wary of an academic proofreading service with NO reviews. If the website belongs to a company that has been around for a long time and is an ethical academic proofreading service, then there would be no reason not to have a review system. Clients don’t have to leave reviews, in fact, according to an Amazon sellers’ forum, only around 10% of people will leave a review – so lots of reviews are good. If you search for ‘Joe Bloggs Proofreading Reviews’ and find nothing, then they’ve either not been around for very long or have had so much bad press that they keep reviews suppressed.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s a reason for the saying ‘you get what you pay for’. Cost is always a factor when it comes to making any purchasing decision, but you should look at academic proofreading as an investment rather than a luxury or whimsical spend. Also, look at the difference between prices rather than the total cost: is it worth spending the extra money for peace of mind?
Most companies generate a price based on number of words: X amount of pounds/dollars per 1,000 words. This ‘X’ is calculated by how long it takes to proofread 1,000 words multiplied by the hourly rate of the editor, plus a % to go towards running the company, all multiplied by any applicable taxes.
A professional editor will spend around an hour per 1,000 words. So, apply what you feel would be a fair hourly rate for a well-qualified UK based academic, then add half for a quality check by a senior editor*, add around half again for overheads, admin staff, website management, advertising etc., and then add tax – and you should have a rough idea of what you can expect to pay per 1,000 words.
It’s not an exact science as hourly rates and overheads vary, but you’ll suddenly start to question why some companies have such low prices……
*a reputable academic proofreading service should offer a second edit or quality check as standard.
What happens if you need to make any amendments? Are you going to have to pay again? Do they even offer to look at your revisions or is it a one-off service?
Or, are they overpromising? For example, saying you can make as many revisions as you like and keep coming back until your supervisor approves it….. As good as that might sound, it’s not really practical from a business perspective.
A genuine academic proofreading service should allow you to come back for ‘reasonable’ amendments or for more work if you’re not satisfied, without further payment.
If you’re still not sure, most proofreading companies will carry out a free sample edit. They’re free, so go ahead, what do you have to lose? Only, be prepared to pay the fee quoted for the full edit, if you’re happy with the sample.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully there are a few things here that will help you to find a trustworthy academic proofreader.
A solid recommendation from a supervisor or friend is the perfect solution, but if you don’t have a recommendation, then in an ideal world, a good academic proofreading service will have:
Oxbridge Proofreading are approved suppliers to many of the UK’s top universities and have been helping students and academics for many years, but there are other ethical companies available too. So, whether you choose to engage our services or use those of another, just make sure to maintain the academic integrity of your research.