Our Proofreading and Copy-Editing Services

 

Introduction

 

First things first. Are you permitted to use a proofreading service to improve the presentation of your assignments, dissertations, and theses (the terms proofreading and copy-editing are often used interchangeably)? You’ll find that universities usually encourage the use of proofreading services for the dissertations and theses produced by postgraduate students studying for masters and doctoral degrees. In the case of undergraduate degrees, while not usually forbidden, proofreading is rarely encouraged.

But, more importantly, as what’s allowed varies from university to university and from course to course, check your university’s website or ask your supervisor to determine what rules apply to your particular course of study (for example, if you were studying marketing and were asked, by way of an assignment, to write some material for a marketing campaign, then the use of a proofreading service would probably not be allowed, as the quality of the writing would, most likely, be a significant determinant in the grade allocated).

When might the use of a proofreading service be beneficial to you as a student? There are three potential use cases:

  • To boost your grade

  • To improve comprehensibility

  • To increase proficiency


It’s unlikely that proofreading will do much to improve your grade: if the course you’re taking is one that allows you to get your assignment proofread, then you are likely to be graded on factors other than the quality of its presentation – so in these circumstances, improving the presentation might at best have a small subjective impact on the judgement of the supervisor who is marking your assignment (if the course you’re taking is one that does not allow you to get your assignment proofread, they using a proofreading service would not be dissimilar to getting an essay mill to write the entire assignment – and universities always prohibit the outsourcing of assignments to third parties).

Why might you need to improve comprehensibility? Well, a manuscript replete with awkward constructions and mispunctuations is hard to read, and is apt to create a negative impression in the mind of the reader, irrespective of the quality of its contents. So, if what you’re writing is likely to be read by anyone other than the person who has been assigned to allocate you a grade, then it’s usually best to get the manuscript proofread. For example, masters and doctoral theses are often published online: they are read by those who have an interest in the subject-matter speciality, and, more importantly, they may be quickly scanned by prospective employers – making these theses suitable candidates for proofreading.

However, the effort expended on proofreading should be proportionate to the demands of the anticipated readership. Lightweight editing may be sufficient for a masters dissertation, and possibly for a doctoral thesis. For example, during the years I spent as an academic – at Imperial College London – providing support to ESL/EFL postgraduate students who were preparing their doctoral theses, the decisive factors in awarding a degree were the originality of the research, the quality of the experimental design, and the structuring and ordering of the results and conclusions. While the initial drafts of these theses were often poorly written – and benefitted from the use of a proofreading service – their presentation was rarely so bad that a degree would not have been awarded had the presentation not been improved. So, as an overseas student, you need to avoid focusing too much on perfecting the presentation of your dissertation or thesis: yes, it matters, but it’s usually the least important factor when it comes to awarding a postgraduate degree.

For an undergraduate assignment, the use of a proofreading service to improve comprehensibility is only likely to be worthwhile if you intend to use the assignment as evidence of your skills and competencies when applying for a job. In an applied subject, one in which you have undertaken a project that demonstrates skills readily usable by an employer, there might well be some merit in including a PDF copy of the project write-up along with your application form when applying for a relevant position. Employers are often unsure as to exactly what level of skill an applicant possesses based on a degree classification alone. And so a project PDF can provide a concrete basis on which to judge a candidate’s suitability – at the very least, including a project PDF makes an application stand out from the crowd.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re writing a research paper and hope to get it published in a leading academic journal, such as Nature, then you need to make every effort to maximize the quality of the presentation: prestigious journals receive far more papers than they have space, or the inclination, to publish, and the busy members of their editorial teams have only a modest amount of time to scan submissions before deciding whether those submissions merit further consideration. In these circumstances, a well-written paper can help to convince the reviewer that the research is sufficiently original and noteworthy to merit publication.

The final consideration is whether, either at an undergraduate or postgraduate level, the use of a proofreading service can be used to increase your English language proficiency. If, in addition to the edited manuscript, you receive back from the proofreader a marked-up copy that shows the corrections that have been made to the draft, then you can use the proofreading exercise to improve your writing skills. For example, the text in the image at the top of this page when copy-edited (for a UK audience) would read:

  • Capable of great insight and powers of expression, he thoroughly understood the inner life of his characters. His talent was widely recognized, especially in his later novels – the years 1985–1997 were his most prolific. But his friendly-looking demeanour and organized daily routines hid a tumultuous inner life. His last book was published just two months before his suicide, in September 2001.


And it might be marked up as follows to highlight the changes made:

  • Capable of great insight and powers of expression, he thoroughly understood his ability to understand the inner life of his characters was notable. His talent was widely recognized, especially in his later novels – the years 1985-1997 were his most prolific. But his friendly-looking friendly looking demeanour and organized organised daily routines hid a tumultuous inner life. His last book was published just two months before his suicide, in September 2001.


However, to enhance your writing skills based on this markup, you must be prepared to carefully examine the changes made and to understand why they were made. The rationale behind a particular correction will often be far from obvious (for example, do you understand the rationale for making the changes listed above?). To maximize the gain in language proficiency, you would probably also need to organize some tuition. So if you are considering using proofreading to improve your writing skills, then make sure you are prepared to allocate sufficient time to the task. (See below for an explanation of why these changes were above – and why the number of errors increases from five to seven if copy-editing for a US audience.)
 

Our Services

 

What’s on offer? – We offer a proofreading, copy-editing, and writing service for documents, manuscripts, and digital materials containing technical and academic subject matter (both the British and American English language varieties are supported).

What documents? – The document can be an essay, a dissertation, a thesis, a research paper, a website page, a magazine article, a book, or a product user guide – or anything else, as long as it’s written in English. Only the proofreading/copy-editing service is available in the case of student assignments: we do not offer an essay mill service.

What style guides? – Supported style guides include AMA, APA, AP Stylebook, ASA, CMOS, CSE, IEEE, MLA, MHRA, New Oxford Style Manual/New Hart’s Rules, and NLM.

What citation styles? – Any of the 9000+ styles with a Citation Style Language definition are supported, among them the American Anthropological Association, American Psychological Association, Cell, Chicago Manual of Style, Elsevier (Harvard), IEEE, Imperial College London (Harvard), Modern Humanities Research Association, Modern Language Association, Nature, Oxford (OED), The Open University (Harvard), and Vancouver.

Are edits marked-up? – Where the draft is submitted in Word 2003 (.doc) or Word 2010 (.docx) format, all changes made to the draft will be recorded by using either the “Track Changes” or the “Compare” feature within MS Word.

How much will it cost? – A question without a simple answer! The price charged will depend on the size of the document; on how quickly the task must be carried out; on how well the document is written; on the level of editing selected; on whether the document must be formatted according to a particular style guide; on whether references must be checked against a particular citation style; on whether a plagiarism check must be performed; and on whether there is a need for subject-matter expertise. A hypothetical example of a more demanding copy-editing assignment would be the following:

  • You wish to publish a research paper entitled, let’s say, “The Impact of CoQ10 and P5P on Rates of Congestive Heart Failure in Diabetic Patients”; the draft is poorly written; you want to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors; you want a substantial rewrite of parts of the document to improve clarity, flow, and presentation; you want the text checked for unintentional plagiarism; you want the text formatted according to the AMA style guide (the paper will be submitted to JAMA Cardiology, a journal that requires this specific type of formatting); you also want a copy-editor with a knowledge of nutritional medicine to enhance the content and restructure the paper using the correct technical terms; and, finally, you want the copy-edited version returned within 24 hours.


We serve the upper end of the academic market, focusing on the production of high-quality manuscripts – for example, editing the drafts of research papers produced by ESL/EFL academics who aspire to be published in leading academic journals. But the production of a highly polished manuscript takes time, and so we charge more for our services than do most of our competitors. On the Internet, you’ll find many cheaper, though more perfunctory, proofreading services that may well be adequate for your needs. So shop around!
 

How to Get a Quotation

 

If you’d like a proofreading/copy-editing quotation, then use the form on the Contact web page to send us a message specifying your editing requirements (include as much of the following information as possible):

  • Document size (in words)

  • Document availability date and required completion date

  • Level of editing required (level 1, level 2, or level 3 – see below for examples)

  • Writing tone required (if other than formal, academic prose)

  • Language variety preference (UK -ize, UK -ise, or US)

  • Style guide (if style guide compliance is required)

  • Citation style (if a check on reference formatting is required)

  • Whether or not a plagiarism check is required


At the end of the message, include some representative paragraphs from the document (at least 500 words), so that its quality and the degree of copy-editing effort required can be assessed.


For detailed explanations of the terms used above, see the following section.
 

New to Proofreading/Copy-Editing?

When first looking for a proofreading/copy-editing service, many individuals are somewhat bemused by the obscure jargon, and are far from being confident as to what they are purchasing! So if you are puzzling over some of the terminology used in the previous section, then here are some explanations (if, when finished, anything is still unclear just ask – use the form on the Contact web page).

Document Size

 

Size refers to the number of words in the document that is to be edited. If you’re using MS Word, just look in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to find the number of words contained in the document you’re editing (for example, Words: 2,958); if you highlight some text within the document, MS Word will also show you the number of words in the highlighted text as well as the total word count (for example, Words: 539/2,958).

When requesting a quote, specify the number of words in the document.
 

Availability and Completion Dates

 

Most professional copy-editors will be working on multiple documents at the same time for different clients – for example, a requirement to edit an urgent press release for one client comes in while the copy-editor is midway through editing a book for another. A copy-editor needs to plan ahead and make sure that he or she has sufficient time to copy-edit your document and deliver it to you by the due date. You may still be working on the draft of your document when you first start to make copy-editing enquiries, so the availability date is the date when you will have finished writing and can send the entire draft document to the copy-editor. The completion date is the latest date by which you need to receive the copy-edited version of the document back from the copy-editor. Leave as much time as possible between the availability date and the completion date, as asking for a rush job can push up the price charged by a factor of two.

When requesting a quote, specify the availability and completion dates.
 

Levels of Editing

 

When it comes to proofreading/copy-editing, there is much by way of technical jargon, and, unfortunately, different copy-editors may understand the same term in different ways. To be clear as to what is included in each service offering, and what’s not, I’ll explain and illustrate what’s meant by each of the following three levels of editing:

  • Level 1: Is the language used correctly?    

  • Level 2: Is the content well presented? AND Is the language used correctly?

  • Level 3: Is the content fit for purpose? AND Is the content well presented? AND Is the language used correctly?


If you write well and make only the occasional error, then you need level 1 (roughly equivalent to proofreading plus light copy-editing). If you have difficulty in presenting your ideas clearly to the general reader – typical of ESL/EFL writers – then you need level 2 (roughly equivalent to medium copy-editing). If you also have difficulty in selecting and organizing the appropriate content or in presenting that content to a specific audience, then you need level 3 (roughly equivalent to heavy copy-editing or substantive/developmental editing).

When requesting a quote, specify the level of editing that you require.
 

 

Level 1 Edit

The simplest and cheapest form of copy-editing is a level 1 edit: the editor will correct errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. No changes will be made to the content or to how the content is presented. For example, suppose your document contains the following sentences (from the image at the head of the page):

  • Capable of great insight and powers of expression, his ability to understand the inner life of his characters was notable. His talent was widely recognized, especially in his later novels – the years 1985-1997 were his most prolific. But his friendly looking demeanour and organised daily routines hid a tumultuous inner life. His last book was published just two months before his suicide in September 2001.


Spot the errors? If we assume, let’s say, a UK audience, then this sentence contains one spelling error, two grammatical errors, and two punctuation errors. The text should read:

  • Capable of great insight and powers of expression, he thoroughly understood the inner life of his characters. His talent was widely recognized, especially in his later novels – the years 1985–1997 were his most prolific. But his friendly-looking demeanour and organized daily routines hid a tumultuous inner life. His last book was published just two months before his suicide, in September 2001.


And what exactly are those errors?

  • The leading adjectival phrase “Capable of great insight and powers of expression” is dangling: it was “he”, the writer, and not “his ability” that was capable of great insight.

 

  • The prepositional phrase “before his suicide in September 2001” is a false restrictive: it implies that he committed suicide more than once!

  • In the noun phrase “the years 1985-1997”, the hyphen should be replaced by an en dash/rule to correctly denote a range of years.

  • Hyphens are rarely used following a word ending in -ly in a premodifying adjectival compound as almost all of these words are adverbs; but a hyphen is required when the word ending in -ly is an adjective: so “his friendly looking demeanour” should read “his friendly-looking demeanour”.

  • And, finally, there is a spelling inconsistency: “recognized” and “organised” represent two valid spelling choices, but the writer must be consistent and choose either the -ise or the -ize ending. For a UK audience, either choice is possible: a competent copy-editor will ask the writer whether the intended audience is the less well-educated readers of the popular press (who rarely encounter any spelling other than the -ise ending, which is derived from French) or the better-educated readers of academic and literary publications (who favour the Greek root – Oxford spelling – and the associated -ize ending).


For a US audience, the -ize ending would be required, and there would be two more errors: demeanour would become demeanor and the parenthetic en dash/rule (novels – the) would become an em dash/rule (novels—the). And, of course, it would be a “U.S. audience”.

These are examples of the errors that a copy-editor will search for and correct if you opt for a level 1 edit. This type of edit is sufficient if you write well, but are likely to make the occasional mistake, one which you fail to spot when proofreading the text yourself.

Note: You may have been tempted to subscribe to one of those online services that use software to automatically check your document for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. When the sentences listed above were checked using one such top-rated service, it detected only one of the five errors – the spelling error. Adding to its low success rate in detecting errors, it also – more generally – throws up a large number of false positives: it suggests changes to a document that would undermine, rather than strengthen, the quality of the text. So while such services have a place when it comes to error checking, use them – if you are so minded – with care.

Level 2 Edit

 

A level 2 edit focuses on improving presentation: it involves a rewrite of parts of the document to improve clarity, precision, concreteness, consistency, voice, tone, textual flow, collocation patterns, and economy of expression – it also includes everything provided by a level 1 edit. But it does not alter the content: the focus is not on “what” is presented but on “how” it is presented. For example, the following text, though grammatically correct, is awkward and an article written in this manner would be rejected by most publishers:

  • Sepsis is complicated. It comes with damage due to oxygen and lots of inflammation. Usually there is infection. The immune system does not work well and there is a lot of blood clotting.


A level 2 edit eliminates the short sentences, the lack of parallelism, and the overly simplistic phrasing (as in it comes with, lots of, does not work well, is a lot of). From this text, a level 2 edit might generate a single sentence:

  • Sepsis, usually brought on by an infection, is complex: it is characterized by damage due to oxygen, by high levels of inflammation, by a poorly functioning immune system, and by significant blood clotting.


A level 2 edit leads to a more polished document than a level 1 edit unless the original is already very well-written. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll find that a level 2 edit can cost several times as much as a level 1 edit.
 

 

Level 3 Edit

A level 3 edit focuses on improving the content of what has been written – it also includes everything provided by a level 1 and a level 2 edit. To perform a level 3 edit, a copy-editor must understand the content, and to do so will require some level of subject-matter expertise. During a level 3 edit, the copy-editor may suggest major structural changes to the document and may encourage the addition of new content and the reworking of existing content to improve the quality and persuasiveness of the arguments being made.

The level 2 edit in the previous section would be suitable for an article aimed at the general public:

  • Sepsis, usually brought on by an infection, is complex: it is characterized by damage due to oxygen, by high levels of inflammation, by a poorly functioning immune system, and by significant blood clotting.


However, it might not be acceptable for an academic publication, as it fails to use the relevant technical terms expected by an audience with subject-matter expertise. A copy-editor with medical knowledge would suggest appropriate changes to the terminology used, and would, in this instance, point out that poor tissue oxygenation is also a key characteristic of sepsis, and so should be included in the list:
 

  • Sepsis, usually brought on by an infectious agent, is a complex syndrome characterized by oxidative damage, hyper-inflammation, immune system dysfunction, poor tissue oxygenation, and hyper-coagulation.

Writing Tone

 

What tone do you want your writing to convey? Perhaps you want the arresting brilliance and nuanced attention to detail characteristic of formal philosophical debate; or perhaps you want languid, sultry prose, the type that might evoke a torpid, somnolent summer’s day; or perhaps you want the engaging, cajoling, earnest advocacy of a web page advertising the unique, singular, incomparable, unparalleled merits of a must-have product? Or perhaps you want something entirely different? While a copy-editor can guess at the required tone based on what you’ve written, the best way to communicate your intent is to provide an example of some text that conveys the precise tone that you’re looking for.


Even if your tone is appropriate for the vast majority of your readers, are you at risk of offending some special interest groups? Did you notice that I ended the last sentence of the preceding paragraph with a preposition (for)? Was I making a grammatical error in doing so? Grammarians and linguists would say that there is nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition or with splitting an infinitive or with separating two independent clauses by a comma or with using a polysyndetonic construction (as I have just done) – at least, on occasion, when the context is appropriate. However, a small segment of the population still remembers and fondly abides by the overly simplified rules of grammar that were drilled into them in their early years at school; and these individuals will be offended by certain grammatical and punctuation choices – even when these choices are made by the most accomplished of writers.


So, should a writer compromise his writing style in order not to give offence? Now I’ve offended yet another special interest group. While using the pronouns he/his/him to refer to persons of common gender has long been considered correct and appropriate by grammarians, this usage does cause offence to some feminists. Most publishers don’t want to be seen to be taking sides in this debate, and prefer their writers to adopt a gender-neutral stance. But should you pluralize, or he-or-she it (as I did earlier when discussing dates), or perhaps you should plump for the much depreciated “singular they” (and risk many readers concluding that you lack basic English language skills). There is no right or wrong approach, just a choice to be made between compromising how you write and offending some of your readers (though it might be prudent to compromise when the readers in question are marking your college essays or evaluating your job application forms).


A copy-editor will usually take a do-not-offend-anyone approach as the default position (another way of eschewing the phrase as his default position). But if you have strong views and wish to take a particular stance on an issue or wish to take a particular approach to making your writing neutral, then let the copy-editor know in advance.


When requesting a quote, (1) provide an example that conveys the requisite tone or specify the intended audience; and (2) specify if you wish to depart from a do-not-offend-anyone approach, or wish to implement it in a particular manner.
 

Language Variety Preference

 

If you’re writing a university assignment, the language variety will usually be determined by the country in which you are studying. But what if you are developing a website to showcase your expertise, with a view to enhancing your future employment prospects. In these circumstances, you’d need to consider where your target audience is located. Ask yourself if the website is intended to serve a local or a global audience, and if a global audience then where in the world is that audience most likely to be based. Choosing a language variety that is incompatible with that used by your readers may impact how your writing is received.


The main consideration when it comes to selecting a language variety is whether to favour British English (BrE) or American English (AmE). Apart from the obvious lexical differences (autumn versus fall), there are differences in grammar (for example, while the subjunctive seems neutral in AmE, it appears formal in BrE, and is often replaced by the modal auxiliary should in the complementation of a jussive adjective by a finite clause); and there are also differences in punctuation (for example, in AmE, but not in BrE, the practice is to move closing punctuation marks inside fragmentary quotes).


And if you decide on British English, there are still choices to be made: for example, if you’re writing website content aimed at the general public, you might want to “organise”; but if you’re writing for an academic audience, you might prefer to “organize”.


When requesting a quote, (1) specify whether you wish to follow British or American language conventions; and (2) in the case of British English, specify whether you prefer to use the -ise or -ize ending.
 

Style Guide

 

Some aspects of spelling, punctuation, and grammar are not fixed in stone. Instead, different publishing houses, academic journals, magazines, and newspapers have their own sets of rules as to what’s right and what’s not – rules that are published in a style guide. Some of the most widely used style guides include the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), the AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors (AMA), The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), and The Oxford Style Manual/New Hart’s Rules; many organizations apply these rules, or apply them with some minor changes. For example, suppose you submit an article that contains the following:

  • Wittgenstein: A Selection of Extracts from Manuscripts Published Posthumously

  • The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein – who taught at the University of Cambridge from 1929 to 1947 – is noted for his work on the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language.


From the perspective of the English language in general, there is nothing untoward about this title and the topic sentence that follows. However, in the context of a journal that mandates compliance with the APA style guide, there would be three errors. The text should read:

  • Wittgenstein: A Selection of Extracts From Manuscripts Published Posthumously

  • The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein—who taught at the University of Cambridge from 1929 to 1947—is noted for his work on the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.


The APA style guide requires that within a level one or level two title a preposition consisting of four or more letters must have its first letter in uppercase (From not from). It requires that an em dash/rule – and not a spaced en dash/rule – is used to separate parenthetic constructions from the main text (Wittgenstein—who taught not Wittgenstein – who taught). And it also requires that writers use the serial/Oxford/Harvard comma: a comma must precede the conjunction and that joins the final pair of elements in a compound consisting of three or more noun phrases (mind, and the philosophy not mind and the philosophy). So, you need to determine if your writing must comply with a style guide, and, if so, then which one. Style guide knowledge is a specialist area when it comes to copy-editing, so make sure the copy-editor you commission is familiar with the requisite style guide.

When requesting a quote, specify whether you wish to use a style guide, and, if so, then which one.
 

Citation Style

 

Which among the following pairs, each consisting of an in-text citation and a reference list entry, is correct:

  • (Banino et al., 2018)

  • Banino, A. et al. (2018) ‘Vector-Based Navigation Using Grid-Like Representations in Artificial Agents’, Nature, p. 1.

 

  • x1

  • Banino, Andrea, Caswell Barry, Benigno Uria, Charles Blundell, Timothy Lillicrap, Piotr Mirowski, and others, ‘Vector-Based Navigation Using Grid-Like Representations in Artificial Agents’, Nature, 2018, 1

  • x[1]

  • [1]    A. Banino et al., ‘Vector-Based Navigation Using Grid-Like Representations in Artificial Agents’, Nature, p. 1, 2018.


Well, each is correct, but each belongs to a different citation style: Harvard Reference format 1, The Oxford Style Manual/New Hart’s Rules, and IEEE respectively. Many large organizations have their own citation styles – over 9,000 are available in XML format. Citations are used in most academic works, but even a commercial website can benefit from including citations if the objective is to convey an impression of subject-matter expertise to website visitors – if the objective is to make the website stand out from the crowd. So, you should determine if you need to use a citation style, and, if so, then which one (a style guide may come with its own citation style). Citation-style knowledge is a specialist area when it comes to copy-editing, so make sure the copy-editor you commission is familiar with the requisite citation style.

When requesting a quote, specify whether you wish to use a citation style, and, if so, then which one.

Plagiarism Check

 

Copying from the work of other authors is frowned upon, particularly in academic writing. For example, suppose your document contains the following sentence:

  • Austen’s works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.


Running it through a plagiarism checker returns “94% of your text matches this source: Jane Austen – Wikipedia”. And, yes, the sentence has indeed been copied from the Wikipedia article on Jane Austen, with only one minor change to the text. Many documents are now routinely scanned to verify that the writing is original. So you need to consider if you might have inadvertently copied material from some source or other in the course of making notes – it’s easily done. If so, then you’ll need to pass your document through a plagiarism checker, and, if plagiarism is detected, to paraphrase the original in your own words. For example, the plagiarism checker concludes that the following paraphrase is 100% original:

  • Austen’s novels exemplify the transition between the 18th-century preoccupation with sentimentality and sensibility and the 19th-century focus on authenticity and realism.


There is, however, a second type of plagiarism to consider. Even if the wording is your own, you will often be expected, especially in an academic setting, to provide references to support your arguments – unless your arguments are genuinely original. For example, in the present case, a reference such as the following would be appropriate:

  • Grundy, I., 2011. Jane Austen and literary traditions. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, 2, pp.192-214.


When requesting a quote, (1) specify whether you want your document passed through a plagiarism checker; and (2) specify whether you want to receive comments on where in the document statements and arguments deserve to be backed up by way of references to original sources.
 

© 2018 WG Educational Services

ESL/EFL Proofreading, Copy-Editing, and English Language Proficiency Specialists