You may be a researcher submitting your manuscript to a journal or finalizing your thesis. Perhaps you work for a company about to launch new marketing material or digital content. In either case, you’ll need to place your document under the microscope at some point to ensure quality. You’ll need editing – more precisely, scientific editing.
While inconsistencies, grammatical errors, or spelling mistakes may seem trivial, they can put off your readers so much that they start questioning your work. This is the last thing you want. After all, you’ve invested time, effort, and maybe money in the writing process.
Regardless of the medium, any publication process requires editing. An editor can help you improve your documents’ grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency, search engine optimization (SEO), and flow. A professional editor can empower your communication to enhance your chances of success through new leads, grants, field authority, or a happy PhD committee.
By contrast, you can review and edit your own writing. If you choose to only self-review, I’d recommend taking a break from the text before attempting to improve the content. We often become too engrossed and familiar with our content, making it easy to overlook unclear or complex sections. Reviewing your work after a break allows you to identify unclear parts and catch mistakes you may have missed during the initial writing process.
You can also use tools to proofread your text. In a separate post, we have listed our favorite free tools and resources to improve your scientific writing.
However, more often than not, the best approach is to have someone else review your content before submitting the work. This is when a friend, colleague, or editor can be incredibly helpful.
Four different types of editing (including scientific editing)
Your editing requirements may change depending on your goals and budget. In some cases, you may only need someone to check your text’s consistency and how it aligns with the house style of a journal or publisher. Other times, you need more extensive editing, including fact-checking, text structuring, and rigorous line-by-line editing.
I always find discrepancies and overlaps in the literature on categorizing different editing types. But let’s look at four common ways an editor (or scientific editor) can work with your content.
Copy editing is the simplest form of editing. It checks for and corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Often, the copy editor doesn’t make a detailed deep dive into the sentences to assess the meaning and impact of each line. To avoid misunderstandings, it’s always a good idea to clarify the scope of the work before ordering a copy-editing service, especially since concepts in the editing world may overlap.
If you need a more detailed assessment, you’re looking for line editing. During line editing, the editor verifies word choices and the power of your sentences and suggests changes based on these. The editor will also optimize sentence length and syntax (word arrangement) for readability and impact.
Mechanical editing ensures your text aligns with the house style or recommendations the publisher or journal has laid out. This type of editing is an essential part of any editing process. It ensures the authors use proper format, language, and style. Mechanical editing can, for example, validate correct abbreviations, abstracts, spacing, punctuation, capitalization, scientific terms, and terminology.
Substantive editing (or content editing)
During substantive editing, the editor reviews and edits the content’s general format, style, structure, and order. The editor can improve content clarity, organize different document parts (tables, figures, titles, or captions), and restructure the text to enhance logical composition and emphasis. Substantive editing may also include adding necessary keywords or improving the SEO of your company’s digital content.
Many other editing categories and subcategories are used in different writing types. However, the abovementioned types highlight the most relevant to the scientific community.
Why choose scientific editing?
In addition to standard editing, science editors often bring their research background and scientific experience to the table, maintaining the precision of your content on point. Compared with an editor, a scientific editor is familiar with scientific and medical terminologies and methodologies, allowing them to navigate the different concepts more efficiently.
Remember that scientific editors usually have experience publishing in scientific journals. If you’re preparing to submit a research manuscript, their knowledge of common house styles and policies can be invaluable. While responsibilities and tasks may differ from in-house editors, a freelancing scientific editor can help you improve your content before and during any publication process, increasing the likelihood of manuscript acceptance.
Companies or organizations launching marketing or educational material can use the scientific editors’ prior experiences as researchers. Most scientific or medical writers and editors were once the target audience for such content, allowing them to adopt a reader’s perspective and tailor the content to better meet your audience’s needs.
As scientists, we’ve spent countless hours creating or reviewing tables, figures, references, and logical compositions of manuscripts and other communication material. Scientific editors utilize their experience to efficiently review and enhance these elements.
Of course, each scientific field uses specific terminologies which don’t necessarily overlap with other research areas. However, from experience, proper collaboration and brief communication between the authors and editor will solve these hurdles and ensure the project advances seamlessly.
By now, you have a better understanding of the editing procedures of scientific material and know what to expect from an editor.