Why editing matters

Juliet's letter to the editor (c) Lee Ellen Pottie 2014
Juliet’s letter to the editor

In academia, whether as an undergrad, graduate, or professor, your writing and your research will distinguish you from a large pool of people. For students, good grammar and a polished text is the difference between an A paper and a B or C paper.

Unfortunately, grammar and good writing does not seem to be high on the list of important things in high school. Or, perhaps the student is not particularly interested in parsing. Parsing? Kind of a vegetable, shaped like a carrot, tasting like squash.

Graduate from high school, enter university, and all of a sudden, professors want papers, journals, opinion pieces, and, usually by the second semester, professors want a sign that the student’s knowledge of grammar is increasing. If it isn’t, he or she may suggest that the student visit the Writing Centre, if the university has one. Great idea!

“Publish or perish,” right? I’ve done editing for a number of professors, some of whom have a different first language than English. One professor, respected in his field, had a paper turned down by a journal. It wasn’t the topic or his research – it was his grammar and syntax. I had fun with that paper: first, I had to de-mystify what he was trying to say. Then, I had to look up the meaning of all the acronyms. Third, I went through the text with ‘track changes’ and made it sound, in English, as intelligent as it had been in French.

If a resumé or CV has an error in it and the HR person hiring catches it – highly likely – there’s a possible job gone. Many people have excellent research, business, marketing, or design skills, and job competition is fierce. Quality paper is not going to be the distinguishing mark between you and them; polished language and grammar is.


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