Revisions and Errors in Journal Articles | Tips on How to Get Your Research Published
It is always necessary to proofread, edit and polish your scholarly writing before submitting it for consideration by the acquisitions editor of a scholarly journal or press. Taking extreme care to ensure the excellence of your text is, after all, essential to communicating clearly and accurately with your readers and earning successful publication. Beneficial though the proofreading and editing processes may be, however, they do tend to be much more complex and time-consuming than many authors anticipate, and they are also fraught with a number of dangers.
Primary among these dangers is the risk of introducing new errors even as you are correcting others. Although most writers are surprised to discover just how often this happens, professional editors and proofreaders are all too aware of the problem and must take precautions to avoid such mistaken changes as they work to improve the writing of their clients. Let us say, for instance, that you are changing the tenses of verbs in a few places in your article to clarify the chronological order of your procedures. This necessitates your altering constructions such as ‘I have done’ and ‘this has been performed’ to ‘I did’ and ‘this was performed.’ Simple changes indeed, but it is amazing just how frequently one of the words that should have been removed is left behind as an error, with the result being incomprehensible phrases such as ‘I have did’ and ‘this was been performed.’ To anyone familiar with the exigencies of editing text, the process that led to the errors is obvious, but some may read such mistakes as a sign of incompetence in the English language, and whether they do or not, the errors stand as blotches amidst your prose. Smaller and more subtle errors are still easier to introduce, so it is important to pay very careful attention when you are adjusting pronouns, articles, numbers and punctuation, all of which can be easily read over as correct when they are in fact problematic.
Whenever you are making changes that apply in many places and instances throughout a document extreme care must be taken. For one, it is essential to determine before starting such wide-ranging changes that the new format will actually be effective in every relevant instance. For example, perhaps you are proofreading your scientific article and have made your way through the first few pages when you decide that your prose and especially some of your more complex sentences reporting and discussing methods and results would be much clearer were you to use the serial or Oxford comma that you had originally decided against. It may be that you know your prose well enough to be sure that the serial comma will work in all cases, but if not, do read quickly through the whole document before starting to make changes. Otherwise, you may get part way through your revisions only to discover that the changes will not work everywhere and you will need to restore everything to the way it was, which only introduces new opportunities for errors. If you are making universal changes through an automatic function such as ‘Find and Replace’ in Microsoft Word, be very careful indeed, examining each instance to be sure the changes you are making should apply.
Finally, once you have finished your changes, it is essential to proofread the whole document once again to ensure accuracy and remove any remaining or added errors, and this is the case even if you used the greatest imaginable care while editing. You will most likely be most effective at proofreading your own work if you can set it aside for a while – at least a day, say, though a few days or a week may be even better – to gain a little distance and objectivity. Another option is to engage the services of a professional academic or scientific proofreader who will be able to help you polish your language and formatting, but do keep in mind that if you make any further changes based on your proofreader’s comments, those too will require checking for precision and accuracy.