An academic writes…

the average academicAcademia is a busy world, and alongside the continual slog to get material published, the average academic is working hard to teach, administrate and care for their students and their department. This means that sometimes articles go off for review when they haven’t been whipped into quite the shape that they ought to be in to make it to print.

Here are some of the most common (and most infuriating!) mistakes that you should try to avoid before you send off your precious research for print:

(1) Incomplete or inconsistent referencing.

You wouldn’t let your students get away with it! Most common in articles that are either from conference papers or sliced out of a thesis. Do take the time to check this, because the peer-reviewers won’t be kind when they find them.

(2) Formatting that doesn’t follow the journal style guide.

Follow the style guide and the editors will have warm, fuzzy feelings towards you. This is small, and won’t take too long, but things like [square brackets] ‘single’ or “double” quotation marks, italics for translations and either ize or ise spellings make a difference for how much your work looks tailored to the journal to which you are pitching it.

(3) Inconsistent formatting.

Particularly when this involves more than one font, it makes the work look unfinished.

(4) Article being the wrong length.

You can go over or under a bit, but sending an 8,000 word article to a journal that routinely accepts only articles of 3,000 or 4,000 words gives the editors the sense either that you don’t know the journal or that they are your second choice, which no one (not even hardened journal editors) likes to think.

(5) Basic proofing errors.

Everyone misses typops here and there – but sending something riddled with proofing errors is not going to win you any friends among editors. It can be tempting to think “this will be proofed a few more times before it goes to print” (guilty as charged) but given that there will always be about six typos in everything that people only spot on the fifth read, grab all the ones you can now, and fix them. The more complete the work looks when the editor reads it, the more warm-hearted they will feel towards you if an ambivalent peer-review report comes back.

That’s all for this week, folks, from your anonymous editor.

Stay grammatical, look both ways before you cross the road, and always, always remember not to end your sentence with a preposition, unless that’s something you like ending them with.

About the Author:

Nick is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor who has worked for Chapterhouse for about as long as he can remember. He is the co-founder of Court Oak Tutors, and is very fond of Percy Pigs.