How Editing Helps Your Work Shine

Before anyone can appreciate the importance of your research, they have to read your paper about it. The quality of that paper determines if your work gets noticed by funders, colleagues, and even the media. If you want your work to have the impact it deserves, your papers need to be clearly written and error-free. This can present a challenge for some chemists. Many researchers have little or no formal training as writers. Many chemists are writing in their second or third language when they publish in English. That’s why the editing services that publishers like ACS provide are so important.

Once a researcher or research group has finished writing and submitted a paper for publication, the next step is peer review. After peer review, ACS sends work to a technical editor, who copyedits and ensures that proper metadata tagging is applied, so links to references are created and work is searchable and discoverable.

After editing, the layout team places content and logos on the page, so that it adheres to the journal’s look and feel and provides readers with a pleasant experience. They also make sure that proper copyright notifications are in place, protecting the work. This rigorous process of review is a key benefit of publishing with ACS.

I’m a great writer. Why does my work need editing?

Writers often joke that “even editors need an editor”. Great writers know the value of having a professional copyedit their work.[i] Technical and copy editors[ii],[iii] clean up grammar errors, misspellings, and awkward phrases — anything that keeps a paper from being crisp and clear.

Scientific journal editing can be particularly challenging, with so many words in each article that are foreign to a non-scientist. This is why ACS looks for technical editors (TEs) that are scientists first — every TE has at least a bachelor’s degree in a scientific discipline, and many have advanced degrees. These scientists then go through a rigorous training process, lasting an average of 4-6 months. Training includes learning beginning and advanced grammar, the application of metadata tagging, and ACS style as found in the ACS Style Guide. This rigorous training program and the mentoring that follows ensure that new TEs have learned not only the “rules” but also how to be effective in a self-driven environment.

The background of ACS technical editors provides writers with a perspective on the readability of their work by a scientist in general, rather than a subject matter expert. With the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of scientific investigation, it’s key to ensure a scientist in another field can understand your work and disambiguate critical methods well enough to repeat the work and compare results.

But it’s been peer-reviewed. Isn’t that enough? Who cares about grammar mistakes?

Although peer review is of paramount importance in the scientific publishing process, it serves a different purpose than technical editing. Peer review sends work to other experts in the field that look at the merits and novelty of the science presented; they do not focus on the manner in which the science is presented. Because the peer reviewers are experts in the same field as the author, they have an easier time understanding what the author means instead of just what the author writes. A scientist from another discipline may struggle to understand the author’s intent. Additionally, both peer reviewers and publishers want to accept good work—no scientist would wish to squash the publication of an exciting new discovery just because the author isn’t a natural writer. However, finding many grammar errors can slowly erode a reader’s confidence in a paper because “[s]loppy writing is often considered synonymous with inexact and, thus, questionable science.”[iv] Some readers have gone so far as to admit they throw away poorly written papers because it’s not worth the effort of trying to decipher them.[v] Using an English expert to fix small errors helps alleviate reader doubts and makes authors look good.

Why should I publish with ACS?

With so many predatory, pay-to-publish journals on the market that don’t evaluate the quality of the work before going to press, ACS takes pride in the reputation we’ve built as a trustworthy publisher over the last 140 years. We ensure that only scientifically valid work is published under the ACS umbrella, and with so much noise on the internet, we don’t want anyone to have reason to question your work. We’re dedicated to our authors and our readers as we push forward our mission to advance chemistry.

Want to Learn More about the Publication Process?

Order our free educational poster series and we’ll ship you a set of four posters for your library, or you can download them to print in a size that fits your needs. The topics include peer review, technical editing and layout, free ACS programs and training for students and researchers, and the benefits ACS offers to authors.

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[i] Goins, J. Why Writers Can’t Edit Their Own Wrok [sic]. Goins, Writer (blog) [Online]. https://goinswriter.com/writers-cant-edit/ (accessed Mar 21, 2018).

[ii] Wenger, A; et al. Understanding the Value of a Technical Editor. Techincal Editing SIG [Online]. https://stc-techedit.org/tiki-index.php?page=Understanding+the+Value+of+a+Technical+Editor (accessed Mar 21, 2018).

[iii] McCoy, J. What a Copy Editor Does and Why You Need One. Express WritersTM [Online], 2013. https://expresswriters.com/what-a-copy-editor-does-and-why-you-need-one/ (accessed Mar 21, 2018).

[iv] Firestone, E. R.; Hooker, S. B. Careful Scientific Writing: A Guide for the Nitpicker, the Novice, and the Nervous. 48th Annual Conference Proceedings, Chicago, Illinois May 13–16, 2001; Society For Technical Communication: Fairfax, VA, 2001; pp 505–510.

[v] Anonymous users. Why are there so many papers written in bad English? StackExchange forums [Online], 2014. https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/15595/why-are-there-so-many-papers-written-in-bad-english (accessed Mar 21, 2018).

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