Is This An “If” Or A “When” Decision?
For some academic writers, the use of an editing service is not an automatic choice. A postdoctoral researcher working in a department with well-respected peers at a prestigious institution may see no need to spend extra time in the writing process by involving an outside reviewer. As an experienced writer with access to other experienced writers for a “second set of eyes” to look over the paper prior to submission, the expense of an editing service may seem unnecessary. “I already have all the editing experience I need,” is a perspective that seems to prevail in many institutions.
For a non-native English speaker pursuing publication in an English language journal, the need is more obvious. Even with access to native English speaking colleagues, the need for solid verification of the use of appropriate nuances and idioms is worth the investment of an editing service.
The Politics Of Editing
Asking colleagues to review your work can require considerable tact. On the one hand, it shows that you value their expertise and experience, and that you trust their judgment. On the other hand, you run the risk of burdening an already busy person with more work, and guaranteeing that you’ll get a similar request in the future. Plus, when you’re asking someone for a favor, how awkward will it be to remind that person that you need his or her feedback before a specific date to meet a journal deadline? In addition, can you be sure that you’ll get honest feedback, especially from one of your direct reports?
Writing as an Iterative Process
Most experienced writers will choose to reach out to an editing service to “take one last look” before submitting an article. If the budget allows, this makes logical sense, since the longer you have been immersed in the research paper or article, the more likely you are to become blind to spelling, grammar, or formatting errors that a “fresh set of eyes” will catch right away. However, when you consider the number of iterations a piece of written work can go through before and after submission, the better rule for that “fresh set of eyes” should be sooner rather than later. Catching errors in the third or fourth iteration may give you a great sense of satisfaction, but is that really the best use of your time?
Humility And Pragmatism
There’s a thin line between confidence and over-confidence. The quality of your past written work may be of no consequence when you are writing under pressure for a publication deadline that is fast approaching. Worse yet, if the journal you are writing for uses a different style manual than you have used in the past, counting on the journal staff to correct your mistakes will only guarantee an automatic rejection.
Stepping out to use an editing service right at the beginning of a new writing project doesn’t require any sense of humility on your part in recognizing that your writing isn’t perfect. Take a more pragmatic perspective and accept that you are making the best use of your time and planning the project in the most strategic way possible.