Dawn Schmidt has a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois and is an expert in language editing for the life and physical sciences. Based in the United States, she helps authors from across the globe communicate their results clearly and authoritatively.
Over the last six months, Dawn has worked with a number of authors via Peerwith. We caught up with her to find out about what being a language editor involves; her views on the importance of working collaboratively; and her top tips for authors looking to get published.
Hi Dawn, thanks for agreeing to speak with us! Having edited over 3,000 scientific manuscripts, you must have a good idea of what makes a piece of research stand out. What role do you think language editing plays for authors looking to publish their work?
The best manuscripts tell a great story from beginning to end with clear, concise language. Publication is absolutely critical not only for individual goals, like securing a faculty position or grant funding, but also for advancing science as a whole. Unfortunately, publication often feels like a hurdle to be overcome rather than a tool for success. Non-native English speakers may be disappointed to receive reviews focusing on their writing rather than the merits of their research. Language editing can help level the playing field for these authors, but even experienced authors can benefit from a fresh, impartial eye.
What does being a language editor involve? What processes do you go through to help authors effectively communicate their work?
Obviously, my first goal is ensuring perfect grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Mechanical errors detract from the style of an author’s work and can even alter meaning! However, even a perfect sentence can be meaningless. A skilled language editor works at the sentence, paragraph, and even manuscript level to eliminate ambiguity and ensure that terminology and ideas are consistent throughout. Moreover, I believe that respect for the author has to be at the core of a language editor’s work. I really strive to preserve an author’s individual style–including field-specific terminology.
How important do you think it is for authors and editors to work collaboratively?
Collaboration is so important; it guarantees a consistent, high-quality product and truly is the most exciting benefit of the Peerwith platform. Collaboration allows mutual feedback between the author and editor to iteratively improve a manuscript. If further rounds of editing are needed, the editor is already familiar with the author’s research and perspective. Ultimately, I think collaboration ensures the respect I mentioned earlier as an important element of an editor’s work.
Finally, if you could give three top tips to authors seeking to improve the quality of their manuscript and increase their chances of getting published, what would they be?
1. Be direct and concise: Don’t bury meaning in wordy phrases in an attempt at sophistication, and avoid unnecessary introductory phrases, such as “it has long been known that” or “the results show that”. Reviewers have limited time and attention; don’t waste it!
2. Be clear: Many authors inadvertently cause confusion by using “it” or “this” to avoid repetition. Here’s an overly simple example: “The dog ran into the house. It was old and red.” Does “it” refer to the dog or the house? Choose repetition over ambiguity.
3. Be confident: Believe in your results! Don’t hedge and cast doubt on the reliability of your findings by using terms like “could”, “might”, or “possible” when the data say otherwise. Stand behind your data, not in front of it.
If you’re looking for language or copy editing services for your manuscript, you can get in touch with Dawn and request her help via her Peerwith page: http://peerwith.expert/dawnschmidtphd