Importance of English editing for non-native speaking authors

English is recognized as the lingua franca for scientific publications. This might be considered to be a deterrent for Non-Native English Speaking (NNES) authors because they find it difficult to assemble their thoughts and prepare their manuscripts for submission to the leading journals. Therefore, many new scientific researches or revelations might never come to light.

NNES researchers and authors usually seek international recognition instead of being confined to their national boundaries. Consequently, they opt for international journals in English. However, these journals are very particular about the language structure and a manuscript with poor language is inevitably rejected. Even if the paper is accepted, the journal reviewers will come down hard on any ambiguity in the language and give a negative feedback. In few cases, they can reject the manuscript citing lack of relevance to the journal’s scope.

In this scenario, NNES authors can seek solace in proficient editing services, which can help bring their manuscripts to the required standard. Professional editors can tweak sentences and content to expunge ambiguous statements, so that the research is presented in a clear, lucid, and cogent manner.

Common mistakes by NNES authors

The most common mistakes committed by NNES writers include the following:

  • Sentence structure: They commit mistakes in basic English writing, particularly grammatical mistakes.
  • Clarity: They often face the problem of expressing their ideas in English, which leads to complex and wordy sentences that impede understanding.
  • Subject specific terms: They are often unable to use technical terms appropriately, which might lead to serious fallacies.

The way forward for NNES authors

Rather than being disheartened, NNES authors should take measures to overcome the obstacles on the way to getting published in reputed journals.

Before hiring a professional editing service to review their manuscripts, they need to take care of the following points to communicate their research ideas better through their writing:

  • They should keep the text as simple as possible by reducing the sentence length, vocabulary usage, and complexity.
  • Usage of idioms and phrases should be minimized.
  • The paper should contain only subject-related technical terminologies.
  • The context of the paper should be clear and concise so that the referees build-up an understanding about the subject while reviewing.

These writing guidelines, coupled with the expertise of a professional editor, can go a long way in ensuring publication in renowned journals.

Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms

Abbreviations

An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase that is used to represent the whole term. For example, etc. for etcetera, Sat for Saturday, Dec for December, Sonar for Sound Navigation and Ranging, UK for United Kingdom, etc. Abbreviations can be of many types; the most common ones are Acronyms and Initialisms.

Acronyms

An acronym is formed from beginning letters, syllables or parts of a word or phrase. It forms a new word and is usually, but not always, in all capital letters. An important point to remember is that acronyms are pronounced as words. It is a subset of abbreviation, i.e., all acronyms are abbreviations, but the reverse is not true.

Examples:

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)abbreviation

Scuba (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging)

OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay)

RAM (Random Access Memory)

LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)

 

Initialisms

An initialism is another type of abbreviation that is made up of the initial letters of the name or phrase. It is different from an acronym as the former is pronounced one letter at a time, i.e., each letter is read separately, and not as a word.

Examples:

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language)

IBM (International Business Machines)

DVD (Digital video disc)

BTW (By the way)

UN (United Nations)

USA (United States of America)

CD (Compact Disc)

Misplaced, Dangling and Squinting Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes or adds details to a sentence. In the below examples, the modifiers are italicized.

  • I went through all the stores yesterday, looking for the perfect gift.
  • While walking on the sand, she removed her slippers.

One should place modifiers carefully so that the reader understands what is being modified. Writers, generally, make three types of modifier mistakes: misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.

 

Misplaced modifier: 

A misplaced modifier is a wrongly placed modifier that makes the subject of the modifier unclear. The reader may not be sure of the word the modifier is describing or may think of a different word being described instead of the intended one. Consider the below examples:

INCORRECT: The man walked towards the building carrying a box.

In this sentence, the building is carrying a box, which is illogical.

REVISED: The man carrying a box walked towards the building.

INCORRECT: We returned the packets to the store that was new.

REVISED: We returned the new packets to the store.

INCORRECT: She served biscuits to the children on paper plates.

REVISED: She served biscuits on paper plates to the children.

Dangling modifier:

When a modifier improperly modifies something in a sentence, it is called a dangling modifier. It is often located in the beginning or at the end of a sentence. The error may occur because the modifier has nothing to refer or is placed next to the wrong noun that it does not modify. Consider the following examples:

INCORRECT: To improve his outcomes, the analysis was done again.

Who wanted to improve outcomes? This sentence indicates that the analysis wants to improve its own outcomes.

REVISED: He improved his outcomes by doing the analysis again or

To improve his outcomes, he performed the analysis again.

INCORRECT: After reviewing the research article, it remains unconvincing.

REVISED: After reviewing the research article, I find the article unconvincing.

INCORRECT: When ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

REVISED: When I was ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

Squinting modifier:

squinting modifier may describe two situations, i.e., either the word before it or the word after it. In other words, it is an ambiguously placed modifier. Consider the below example:

INCORRECT: I told my daughter after she completed her homework we would play together.

The above sentence is not clear.

Does it mean that I told my daughter after she completed her homework? Does it mean that we would play together after she completed her homework?

REVISED: After she had completed her homework, I told my daughter we would play together. Or, I told my daughter we would play together after she completed her homework.

Public Writing on the Web

Multimedia

 

First and foremost, we must keep it in our mind that websites are addressed to users rather than readers. In other words, they must provide information in such a way that it is consistent with the nature of their medium, as well as makes full use of the medium’s resources. Digital capabilities are often grouped under the supportive term multimedia. The multimedia includes text, graphics, sound, video and animation. The potential of multimedia is increasingly being recognized and utilized in most areas of communication, like education, entertainment, business, etc. In fact, new fields of communication have emerged through the use of multimedia applications, such as the creative combination of educational, information and entertainment techniques that has come to be known as edutainment and infotainment. The fact that the digital medium is actually a collection of different media capabilities gives the web designer a singular task to coordinate the different media and produce, through their combination, an effective and compelling result. However, the technology for graphics, sound, video and animation is constantly changing. In this regard, a necessity arises to focus more on the text, about which we will discuss in our next blog.

Email

Email is a very swift method of correspondence. Through an email one can send data or information across the world to multiple recipients in a few seconds, at a fraction of the cost of the courier or postal charges. This is a great advantage but can be a drawback too. As once the sent button is hit there can be no recalling of the information sent. Though some software is found which can retrieve a sent email but it is not popular and easily available.

An email can be seen and read simultaneously by many recipients, open to a more constructive criticism and feedback. Another disadvantage of emails is that due to their ease and simplicity, emails often tend to be associated with speech and casual language rather than formal script, which can lead to miscommunication.

When sending email as part of a professional communication, keep in mind these two points:

  1. An email message is a written text; therefore, it is bound by the conventions of writing. The audience and purpose should determine the relative formality of style and the amount of detail. Ease of transmission and deletion does not justify sloppy composition, wrongly spelt words and ungrammatical sentences. A very common complaint with business emails are that writers seem abrupt and disrespectful and seem written in haste.
  2. Email does not replace hard copy. Printed and signed documents are still considered more binding and formal than soft copy. Therefore, it is always better that even when you email a report for fast transmission, make sure to send a hard copy to formalize the communication. Firstly, it is still easier to lose documents in cyberspace. Secondly, there can be technical glitches’ with electronic communication, whereas print can fall back on the universality and reliability of paper.

The closest hard document to an email message is the memo. Email headers, for instance parallel memo headers, comprising From, To, Subject and Date. Therefore, construct an email message like a memo. This means you should:

  • Begin with an opening address: This could be ‘Dear’ … … for more formal correspondence or ‘Hello … ‘ for less formal. You can omit an opening address if the message is one in a series of reply exchanges on a topic.
  • Place your main message as close to beginning as possible: Give as much information possible in the first paragraph. All details must be given in following paragraphs.
  • Write in full words and paragraphs.
  • Never use uppercase to emphasize anything, its better to italicize the word.
  • End the mail by clear stating the expected response by the person after reading the email.
  • Sign your message with your name and affiliation and contact number.

Other points to be kept in mind while writing an official mail are keep short paragraphs while writing emails. Do not use headings, tables or formatted text in the body of the email. If there is large data then include those in attachments and not in the body of the email.

Use of email is appropriate in cases where even their deletion will not cause any problems. They can be used instead of letters in case of external communication and memos in case of internal communication. It is always better to get a hard copy for binding contracts or information that needs to be recorded.

Print vs. Electronic Writing

Strengths of Print Writing

  • We can read printed documents much easily than electronic ones. Reading online increases reading time by about 25%. This is because the visual resolution of a printed material is about 250 times sharper than the computer screen.
  • Print media offers more portability. We can read a book/newspaper/magazine anywhere without the hassle of hardware.
  • Print materials are faster to skim through. They can also be easily shuffled compared to online pages.
  • It is easier to underline or highlight something on paper.

 

Strengths of Electronic Writing

  • Generally, online publishing is more cost effective than print publishing.
  • Online publishing provides more scope for experimenting with style and space.
  • Colors appear more bright in online pages (use RGB) compared to print pages (use CMYK).
  • It is much easier to edit or update online content. It can be done with just a few clicks. In print media, for updating any information, the whole thing needs to be reprinted, which increases expenditure.
  • The use of multimedia helps to present online materials in a much more pleasing and entertaining manner.

Electronic writing offers more interactivity. For example, in surveys, people respond more readily to online requests.

INTERNET AND WORLD WIDE WEB

In our day-to-day life, we often confuse the Internet with the World Wide Web. However, they both differ to some extent. The internet includes the web, as well as it is the infrastructure level of the medium, including services such as email, etc. On the other hand, the web is the public face of the internet medium, where users access information about products and services by visiting their respective websites.

It is quite necessary to remember that the internet is just a medium and not a document type. It provides the means of transmission and exchange of information presented in different document types. For example, we can’t sent a report via email as an attachment, or post it as a portable document format (pdf) on a site. The document would still be a report, regardless of its medium of transmission. In other words, while composing it, we should follow the conventions and expectations of report writing. Microsoft word, for instance, creates documents that are generally intended to be read in printed form or hard copy, even though they have been created and maybe even sent in a digital medium.

Digital media

Internet provides high visibility at very low cost, making it the most effective and fastest means of global communication. In the age of internet communication, a basic knowledge of the workings of the computer and internet is very necessary for all business environments.

The internet is a storehouse of information and a powerful medium of information distribution. In the present world of information technology knowledge of how the computer works is very important.

The computer is divided into three parts, the hardware, the operating system and software.

The hardware is the actual electronic part of the computer which includes memory, hard drive capacity, different drives or storage space (e.g. CD-ROM, DVD, etc.) and screen.

The powerful the hardware the higher level of work the computer can perform for e.g. for multimedia applications, one needs a computer with large hard drive and minimum megabytes (MB) of memory.

The operating system (OS), or platform, determines general functionality (how the computer works) and interface ( what the design of the screen looks like) It also determines the kind of software that can be installed and run in the computer.

To connect to the Internet, one needs a browser and an ISP (Internet Service Provider). The browser is the software that allows the computer to access data on the World Wide Web; for example, Internet Explorer, Firefox , Google chrome are very popular browsers. The Internet is actually a huge centreless network of computers connected through individual servers – the part of a company’s computer network that connects directly to the Internet. For an individual user, one needs a provider that has a server in order to connect (usually at a set fee). Companies and institutions have their own servers. The web address or URL, Uniform Resource Locator is actually a link to a server. If one wants to publish any material on the Internet, such as a website, one needs a server to host your site.

Submitting Articles for Online Publication

Writing for online magazines is somewhat similar to print journalism, particularly the inverted pyramid format. Also, as in print publishing, it is essential that you should be an avid reader of your magazine before becoming one of its writers. Going through recent articles of the magazine can provide you invaluable tips regarding the expectations of the editors and readers. Another way to analyze the readers of a magazine is through its advertisers. Many online magazines contain ads at the top or the sides of their page. The types of ads that are displayed there throw light on the demographics and psychographics of the target audience.

Browsing various sites will eventually make you familiar with the electronic magazines that might be a good choice for your article. In many sites, there is a link ‘About Us’, which gives information about the editorial angle, audience, and article submission requirements. In order to be on safer grounds, it is always beneficial to email the editor to present your idea and to determine the fee (if applicable), deadlines, and other relevant issues.

With regard to style, online articles are written in a more casual style than print publications. Online articles tend to be a mix of different genres and styles and allow more experimentation in word choice compared to print publications. Also, they should contain shorter sentences and paragraphs because of the restrictions of the screen-based interface. To sum it up, electronic articles have an economy of style in addition to attention-grabbing punches, which is not often expected for print publications.

SUBMITTING AN ARTICLE FOR PUBLICATION

SUBMITTING AN ARTICLE FOR PUBLICATION

 

While deciding to submit an article to a magazine for publication, make sure you are familiar with the topics and styles of your chosen magazine. You have a higher chance of having your article accepted if it fits with the ‘culture’ of the magazine. All magazines have details of the editor, so if you cannot find submission guidelines, contact the editor to request them. This is the editor’s job and, besides, most magazines are looking for fresh ideas and new writers. In most cases, you will be required to submit a proposal summarizing your article, and noting its significance and the types of readers it is likely to interest.

In order to familiarize yourself with the stylistic conventions of your chosen magazine, follow these steps:

1. Read carefully each article in recent issues of the magazine. Note the basic question or issue that they deal with and trace the ways that they answer it.

2. Notice the tone of the articles. Is it humorous? Serious? Technical? Chatty? This will give you a hint on what tone to give your own article.

3. Notice the use of research. Have the writers conducted primary research, such as interviewing people, or are most articles based on secondary research, the consultation of written sources? How many quotations do the articles use? How much information is paraphrased, i.e., written in the writer’s own words?

4. Notice the use of pronouns (‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’, etc.). Are articles written mostly in an impersonal, objective style or do they rely heavily on personal comment? How does the writer refer to him/herself? Does s/he use personal pronouns?

5. Notice the leads and ties. How long and snappy are they? Do the articles rely strongly on leads to ‘bait’ the reader, or are other elements, such as pictures or quotations of famous speakers, more prominent?

6. Underline the first sentence in each paragraph. They should form a step-by-step sequence. Then note the cohesion that the writers have used: the linking words and phrases within paragraphs and the transitions from one paragraph to the next. Often the same words or ideas will be repeated in the last sentence of one paragraph and the first sentence of the next.

7.  Notice how the articles develop their theme. Is the article structured chronologically, developmentally, by alternating examples, point by point? How did the writer build the organizational structure to answer the title’s question?

8.  What techniques does the writer use to make the article both informative and appealing? E.g., does s/he use analogies, anecdotal examples, metaphors, personal stories, rhetorical questions, direct questions to the readers, etc.?

9.  Notice the title. It may have been changed by the editor; nevertheless, how does it reflect the article? Does it tease, quote, state facts? What technique does the writer use to make the reader want to read the article?

10.  Look at para-textual elements, such as visuals, pullquotes, subheads, etc. Although the editor may have produced these, you can still get an idea of the type of ‘framing’ that the magazine requires, and this will give you some tips on what types of information the editors consider important.