English language copy editors work behind the scenes, ironing out a wide variety of errors—grammatical, punctuational, typographical—throughout our manuscripts, with the utmost attention to detail and quality assurance. Their job, although sometimes overlooked, is paramount within the academic publishing industry.
Today, we share our conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Morris, an expert editor on eContent Pro’s English Language Copy Editing Team.
Dr. Jeffrey Morris has more than 10 years of experience in research and teaching. He is currently an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University. Dr. Morris has published a handful of book chapters and journal articles and has won a multitude of awards for his research and creative work in addition to receiving competitive internal and external grants. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts (2007) in Composition from the University of North Texas with a specialization in Electroacoustic Composition. He also holds a Masters of Music (2000) in Composition and Bachelor of Arts (1998) in Music from Florida State University.
1) What drew you to copy editing and what inspires you the most in working with authors?
I’ve gained a lot of experience writing for teaching, research, grants, knowledge bases, publicity, policy, and formal communications, as well as assessing research and proposals by peers and students. This has driven me to find or devise the best practices in writing, and engaging other people’s ideas in this way inspires me and helps me to grow in interdisciplinary ways.
2) As an English Language Copy Editor, what common mistake(s) do you see authors make?
With regard to technology, authors too often let word processors decide when to use hyphens (-), en-dashes (–), and em-dashes (—) and convert them automatically. (Look up their proper usage and the key commands to type them—take control!) Unfortunately, word processors don’t understand enough about your context, let alone your governing style guide, to get it right all the time, and the resulting paper looks informal and inconsistent.
In writing, it’s common to waste a lot of space with conversational turns of phrase. While you may find that they would be perfectly acceptable when talking out loud with a colleague or a friend, so many unnecessary words, phrases, figures of speech, lists, and maybe even entire clauses simply aren’t necessary when you are writing, and furthermore, they might possibly make it rather difficult for the reader to understand or even discern what it is that you’re trying to say. See? Conversational figures of speech keep readers from understanding your writing.
3) In academic writing, why is it important for authors to provide accurate references?
It’s helpful to remember that the purpose of references is to allow readers to find your sources and build upon your work. Future researchers need complete and accurate information to find and consult the same versions of the sources you used. Further, reference formatting standards were made to increase brevity and readability. They provide a form to fill out, without headings or prompts (just blanks). More than this, however, your references also show that your work is engaging and advancing prior work by others in the discipline. A healthy proportion of recent publications from reputable sources in your references bolsters a reader’s confidence in your work.
4) What is a verb tense, and why is it so important?
The tense of a verb communicates the relationship between an action and the things affected by it, whether it is happening now, has happened already, will happen later, might have happened, would have happened, etc. It’s necessary for understanding the precise sequence and connections among events.
5) How can authors eliminate first-person pronouns from their writing?
Well, sometimes it is appropriate or unavoidable. However, writers should avoid it most of the time, to maintain a formal tone and to avoid wordiness and sounding unconfident. First-person references are often difficult to edit out, requiring completely rewriting a sentence instead. Keep in mind that when you write, “We believe that...,” you are needlessly softening your presentation. Readers already believe that you believe in your own results. Make a habit of writing, “This shows that...” instead.
6) In what ways can an author maintain consistency throughout their manuscript?
The most effective method is to write and talk about the subject a lot. With experience, an author will refine phrasing to arrive at the most clear and effective ways of addressing it. An author who has worked out these best practices will always rely on them (consistently).
7) Why, in your opinion, is copy editing so valuable?
Well, some authors may be tempted to use a copy-editing service as merely a convenience, after the author feels completely “done” with the paper. However, this doesn’t yield the most value in the long run. A wise author will use a copy-editing service to engage with their own work at this distinct and valuable stage in the writing process. By carefully reviewing the copy editor’s work, seeing how it is interpreted through someone else’s eyes, authors learn how to write better in the future, allowing the copy editor to focus on even greater levels of writing effectiveness. Writers are best served thinking of a copy editor as a professional consultant or trainer, rather than as a repair technician.
8) What resources do you recommend for authors to guide them during the writing process?
Your discipline’s style guide! They’re not intimidating. APA is small and focused on values; Chicago is well-organized and easy to use. Words Into Type is charming and insightful, and it’s backed by (mid-century) studies. Great minds from Derrida to Einstein have reflected on how words shape an author’s own thoughts, and if your thoughts aren’t clear on paper, they’re not clear enough in your head. A style guide is by my side when I write; it’s well worn, marked, and tabbed, and my habit of looking things up along the way helps to hone my thoughts.
9) If you could provide just one piece of standalone advice for early-career authors, what would it be?
Brevity. (I’ve always wanted to say that. I got it from television a long time ago. It was a story where . . . never mind.)
Many thanks to Professor Jeffrey Morris for his cooperation and insights. eContent Pro services help researchers and authors from around the world prepare their manuscripts for publication – thanks in part to the efforts of our expert English language copy editors, such as Dr. Jeffrey Morris.
eContent Pro delivers the highest quality editorial services and content advisement to ensure polished, presentable, and readable written materials for organizations and independent clients worldwide. To learn more about how eContent Pro can benefit you through a complete assessment of your manuscript please visit www.econtentpro.com and upload your document today.