What Does Academic Editing Entail, and How Can It Improve Your Manuscript?

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Editing and proofreading are crucial steps in the publishing process for any written work, but they are especially important for academic papers because errors in the content or the language greatly decrease their chances of acceptance for publication in a journal. Typos or grammatical mistakes in an academic paper reflect poorly on the scholar and their attention to detail, detracting from their work and damaging their credibility. 

Letting typos slip in is natural—it happens even to the best of writers. That’s why editing is so important. Hiring an experienced academic editor will ensure any errors are caught and corrected before you submit your carefully crafted research paper to a journal. In addition to polishing your manuscript, an academic editor will ensure it follows the submission guidelines of your chosen journal, which is essential as failure to adhere to them will generally result in rejection.

The editing process can seem onerous to those new to submitting manuscripts to academic journals. While it can be intimidating to have a professional editor pore over your work, it’s crucial if you want to get your paper published. We’ve summarized the editing process below so you can navigate journal submissions with more confidence.

We provide academic editing services to ensure good grammar, sentence structure, and word choice in your paper. Find out more about hiring an academic editor to strengthen your manuscript.

Steps in editing an academic manuscript

1. Substantive (developmental) editing

Substantive editing is what the earliest drafts of your manuscript undergo, long before you can think about publication. This comes after you have jammed your manuscript full of all the information it needs and gone through a few rounds of revision to shape it up, but you know that it needs a lot more work before you can submit it to a journal. Maybe the structure is confusing, the writing is inconsistent, or the framing doesn’t make sense. Whatever it is, you need a fresh, professional perspective to figure out what your manuscript needs. At this stage, the editor will be someone not only with experience in publishing in academic journals but also with expertise in your particular field of study.

At the substantive editing stage, the editor is not concerned with grammatical errors or the quality of writing at the sentence level. You can focus on those finer details after you address any pressing structural issues since there’s likely to be a significant amount of rewriting. A developmental editor takes a much broader view of the manuscript, their primary concern being its foundation and structure. They assess the overall structure of your manuscript and make sure the introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections flow in a coherent and logical manner. Their job is not to modify your data—they are here to help you present it in the clearest and most effective way possible.

At this stage, the editor may reorder paragraphs, flag gaps in the data, and note questionable interpretations. While they won’t carry out more research for you, they may point out a logical contradiction with your interpretation or bring up a perspective you had not considered. They will also highlight any details that need clarifying or correcting and any instances where further research or referencing is necessary. Resist the temptation to get defensive when your editor identifies flaws in your interpretations or data—it can be painful, but it’s all meant to improve your manuscript.

2. Academic editing

After you have completed the revisions as per your substantive editor’s suggestions, your manuscript should be ready for academic editing (also known as language editing).

An academic editor evaluates the writing to ensure that it is clear and linguistically sound and that it meets the requirements of the journal. They assess word choice and sentence structure, identify instances of unclear meaning, make sure the manuscript is concise and flows naturally, and correct grammar and spelling errors. In short, academic editing improves the readability and clarity of a manuscript. Essentially, it is paragraph and sentence editing but with a focus on the conventions of academic language, with your editor ensuring not only that your work reads smoothly but that it also adheres to the writing and citation requirements of the style guide you are using.

3. Proofreading

Proofreading is the final step in the editing process and ensures a manuscript is error-free before submission. A proofreader looks at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Some proofreaders also adjust formatting and check tables, charts, and other visuals. They will not pay attention to structural inconsistency or ambiguous or awkward writing—that falls on your academic editor.

Where to get professional help with your academic manuscript

Just as you wouldn’t get an amateur to review your methodology (you need an expert in the field to accurately assess the study), you shouldn’t get one to edit or proofread your manuscript. That means you have to hire an editor who is both an expert in writing and grammar and who understands your field well enough to handle the jargon. Academic editing is a unique branch of editing that also requires the editor to be familiar with academic writing conventions, so it’s not a job for just any editor.

If you are considering hiring a professional, get a quote for our academic editing and proofreading services. We will help make your manuscript readable, clear, and error-free so you can submit it with confidence.

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