The Importance of Perfecting Your Academic Writing
We are living in an age of extremely rapid publishing cycles, and there is constant pressure to publish quickly and publish frequently. With not only the dissemination of new research and the advancement of knowledge at stake, but also citation counts, promotions, tenure and financial rewards, it is easy see why most academics and scientists willingly jump on for this accelerating train ride and do their best to keep up. There is a good argument, however, for slowing down a little, reflecting on your work carefully and perfecting each piece you write before you submit it for consideration, and more than one publication train wreck in recent years has confirmed the potential dangers of not doing so.
The push for speed among the publishers of scientific journals presents the most obvious example of the cost that is sometimes associated with faster publication cycles. Efforts to share vital new knowledge as quickly as possible are admirable, but the consequences can be enormous. The mass retractions lamented by so many scholars are only one aspect of a larger problem that also includes editors being more stressed than ever over mountains of submissions (many of them poorly prepared and not proofread), readers feeling overwhelmed by the sheer mass of material (of varying quality) vying for their attention, and the increasing difficulty of finding and engaging enough willing and qualified scholarly peers to review all those papers that keep pouring in. Obviously, the rapid assembly-line publication of research articles has its price, but if each scholar takes special care to ensure that his or her work is carefully proofread and edited to meet all journal requirements and communicate in prose that is clear and correct before that work is submitted, it will certainly help relieve the pressure and eliminate unnecessary editorial delays. It is, after all, far easier to make changes and corrections before writing is submitted than later in the publishing process, and paying careful attention to how your paper is written and formatted can also focus your attention on what is being said in the paper, which will enable improvements in content as well.
Although online forms of publication such as blogs are considered far more informal than journal articles, a good case can also be made for taking the time to polish the prose used in these venues. It is rare indeed at present to read even a scholarly blog post that is entirely free of errors, so those few that are stand out in a pleasant way. Perfecting your work before exposing it online will not compromise the sense of an ongoing intellectual process of exchange and development that many scholars experience while blogging and receiving comments from readers. Instead, it will mean that the thoughts you build on are expressed more precisely, more clearly and possibly with greater sensitivity, and given that reflecting on your own academic or scientific writing is an excellent way to advance your thinking, it may just make those thoughts more sophisticated as well.