Mafoko Manuscript Services
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PREPARING TO HIRE AN EDITOR
In an effort to help you prepare to have your thesis, dissertation or other paper copy edited, and to help you reduce the cost of this work, we have compiled a list of things that you can do to make our job go faster and thus save you money.
- What is your due date? This is one of the first things we need to know. Please don't say, "I need it, like, yesterday" or something similar. Since we have other jobs to do, we need to know exactly how to organise our time. Telling us that it was already due, or telling us on the morning of the day it is due that it is due by 4.30 p.m., does not get the work done faster. If we know when you have to turn it in, we can pace ourselves to allow time for you to go over our suggestions and to deal with questions and queries that come up.
- Has your supervisor approved the content? If not, then copy editing is probably not your best option at this point. There is no point in paying to correct a document that is going to be substantially changed; it would have to be copy edited again. Wait until your supervisor is ready to sign off, then contact us and tell us what you need done and when it is due. (It is worth noting that content editing is the most expensive editing option.) On our website, we say that we can "discuss your research needs with you and ... arrange to conduct research here in Botswana on your behalf". However, this doesn't mean that we can do your research project for you. It means that if, for example, scholars overseas find they need to check something in the archives (they might have forgotten to check something while they were here, or a new question has come up that needs a quick answer), then we can do that for them. For a Master's or a PhD, you have to do your own research: you have design the project and gather the information, whether it is archival research or other kinds of fieldwork. We cannot do this for you.
- Once the task and the price have been agreed, please do not add other things later that you want us to do, as in, "Oh, I also need it to be formatted." Formatting and copy editing are two different tasks, and should be done at different times. Be clear about what you want done, and then later if you also need something else done, we can discuss what that is and how much it will cost.
- There are different types of editing.
- Although we do content editing for things like academic articles and creative writing, for a post-graduate degree content editing and content revision is something that you do with your supervisor to check that all relevant material has been consulted, that your argument is sound and clear, and that you have drawn the relevant conclusions. We can point out obvious discrepancies and contradictions, but learning to evaluate your own argument is part of post-graduate education.
- Copy editing, the sort of editing that most students ask for, includes checking for grammar, punctuation, awkward expression, style and so on.
- We can check formatting for you. That is easiest for us if the document is already fairly clean, that is, if there aren't too many copy editing issues.
- Proofreading just checks for minor errors such as typos.
- We can usually re-format tables, if you would like us to, but not usually figures, since we don't have the same software you do. We often find that figures have been composed or constructed and then inserted into a Word document as a separate file, and we cannot usually access that file. We will tell you about any obvious issues, but very often we can't get inside the figure to make edits. Make sure your figures do not run off the side of the page.
- Check to make sure that all terms specific to your discipline and your research are correct. Not all terms used in a particular field are found in an ordinary dictionary, so we can't always confirm spelling. Your discipline might also require you to spell or capitalise a word in a particular way, and we need to know what the correct spelling and capitalisation are so that we can make all uses of the term in your thesis consistent.
- Check to make sure that sections and sub-sections are numbered correctly. In a content edit, we check that sections and subsections make sense in terms of the argument, and we will look for obvious structural difficulties, but you will go over these with your supervisor, who will help you with structure-sections and subsections-so try to make sure that the numbers correspond to the hierarchy of the structure. This is especially true if you are using one of Word's features that automatically numbers sections for you. We check section and sub-section numbering, but often we are unable to make changes on the document since Word alters other parts of the document as well as sections, especially in the table of contents. Without knowing how you have formatted these things in Word, we have trouble trying to sort them out using Track Changes. (If we are working on hard copy, of course, this issue doesn't arise.) We will add a document to this website in the next few months about using Word's formatting and styles.
- We can edit in all reference styles, including footnoting, APA, MLA, Chicago, etc., so tell us which one you are using...
- ...and cross-check your citations with your references. This means checking every citation in the text, such as "Motsumi, 1990", and making sure that Motsumi, 1990 is fully referenced in your reference section. We check this as well, but if many references are missing, it slows us down, and you will have to look for them at the end of the copy edit when time is running out. The best way is to simply go through your document, no matter how long it is, and check each citation in the references, ticking the items in the reference list as you come across them in the body of the document, and making a list of citations that don't appear in the references. Don't forget to cross-check the years of publication, too, since Motsumi, 1990 is not the same as Motsumi, 1999. You probably won't have very many missing references if you are using reference software correctly.
- Tell us what other formatting requirements UB has, such as margins, location of page number, order of pages, etc. If they just tell you "Chicago" or "APA", that's fine, as long as there aren't other requirements. Check with your supervisor or the School of Graduate Studies to make sure.
- Spelling and punctuation: British or American? Either is fine, but tell us which form you're using. For most, if not all, of you, it will be British, but confirm and tell us.
- Spell-check before you send it to us (and as the last thing you do before submitting). Because spell-check does not find all errors, and because gross misspellings slow us down, if you spell-check before you send it, we will be able to go a bit faster. We don't do a spell-check because it can introduce errors into edited work.
Remember these two things:
- learning to scan your work for major errors and for tidiness is a skill that you will be glad you have later in your career, when publishers and journals will want material that will be easier to edit, and
- going over your document to look for things that will slow down a paid editor might help you see other, more substantive issues in your argument.