Academia is known for its rigour, and one of the ways this is expressed is in a series of demanding formal requirements that surround all academic work, common to freshmen and tenured professors, to first week assignments and fifteenth books. Indeed, a large part of undergraduate and postgraduate education focuses on giving students the skills and knowledge they need to meet academia’s exacting standards and prepare them for a potential future career writing journal articles and other academic works. In this post, we will outline some of the most common mistakes people – even experienced academics! – make in their writing and how they can be resolved by effective copy editing.
The most common academic writing mistakes are perhaps the hardest to explain. They are to do with clarity. There is a tendency inherent in much academic prose towards obscurity, as if producing deliberately difficult writing will impress the reader with the writer’s intelligence. In undergraduate work in particular, this tendency can be very evident, and the reader can see the writer straining towards professionalism, and ultimately undoing herself. But the tendency is not in principle wrong: it is important that academic writing is technical, complex and in line with academic style. Simplicity and informality should not be encouraged, and should be in general avoided. It can be difficult for students, especially those new to academic writing or who are writing in a second language, to get the balance between avoiding simplicity and retaining clarity right, because it requires a certain degree of expertise and a kind of instinctive feel for prose style. Fortunately, our copy editing is exactly designed to meet this need, and will primarily focus on improving your prose style to ensure that it is both clear and professional, both easy to understand and reflective of the complexity of your thought.
So, what else can copy editing help with?
Another common mistake relates to referencing. Reference styles can be complicated and often include a myriad of strange exceptions or obscure rules for referencing things that almost never need referencing (a VHS cassette or an authorless, dateless website, for example). Most writers will manage to get the basics of their referencing system right, but many will struggle to get the system perfect. Often we see inconsistency in referencing, from the very minor, like alternately using and not using commas to separate author and date in the Harvard style, to the major, like using a combination of endnotes and footnotes. Again, copy editing is perfectly designed to deal with these inconsistencies, drawing on our editors’ wealth of experience in academia and familiarity with the arcana of the most common reference styles to ensure that your references are entirely consistent with your given style.
Finally, and perhaps most obviously, we see a lot of the kind of writing errors that you would expect in any piece of work: typos, spelling mistakes, misplaced apostrophes, and misused homophones. These creep into the writing of even the very best authors. Worse, they can be very difficult to find yourself, because of your own familiarity with both your work and your pattern of thought. Our copy editing is robust and thorough, and will return a perfect document to you, free of these kinds of errors.
Do any of these common academic mistakes sound familiar? If you are having trouble with typos or tone, or you are wrestling with referencing, Oxbridge Proofreading®’s academic copy editing service, otherwise known as Stylistic Editing, is there for you. Style and presentation are important, but often frustratingly intangible; our expert editors can help you to reach the stylistic standards academia demands.
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