Five easy-to-avoid mistakes when getting your thesis/dissertation edited

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You’re almost at the finish line… time to get an academic editor

After a gruelling postgraduate run spanning several years, you’re almost at the finish line. But, the finish line is approaching fast. It is almost submission time! The next step is to enlist the services of an academic editor. Though 2020 was a rough year, postgraduate students are still as committed as ever to finish their Masters and Doctoral degrees. If you have been that disciplined this year, you deserve that degree more than ever!

When the race comes to a close and submission time draws near, it is normal to feel exhausted and completely ‘over it’. You have diligently kept to your schedule, but now you’re rushing to tie the final inevitable loose ends. From personal experience, aside from the odd ultra-marathon (that I have no personal experience with), there are few periods in life that require as much endurance as the final months before submitting your postgraduate thesis.

Amidst all the books, a student gets in touch with an academic editor.            Nervous student in front of laptop.

Five mistakes to avoid when enlisting an academic editor

As an academic editor, I regularly come across the same potential barriers. Postgraduate candidates may assume that editing is an unnecessary flourish. They may think that editors are always available when needed. There are a few who assume that editors possess specialised degrees in every academic subject available. Some feel that reference editing is a waste. While others expect an impossible turnaround time. Let’s clear up assumptions that can leave you editor-less with an unedited thesis on the day of submission. Here’s what to avoid and how to avoid it:

Mistake #1: I don’t need an academic editor.

You absolutely do! No level of proficiency or amount of linguistic prowess can make up for another pair of eyes, especially professional eyes that know what to look out for in academic texts. As a linguistics major, I found myself alarmingly close to submission, with little plans for getting professional editing assistance. I’m excellent at English, right? Of course, but we all make mistakes. And I made some obvious language errors and typos due to postgraduate fatigue (if it’s not a thing, it should be!) and pressure to meet my deadline. Unfortunately, I picked mine up during the corrections phase, after submission. You can avoid this! Get a professional editor to polish your thesis for you.

Mistake #2: I’ll find an academic editor later.

No, you won’t! Academic editors are busy people. They’re particularly busy during submission time. This is because you are not the only postgraduate candidate aiming to submit. The organised, far-sighted students book their editors months in advance, expecting the obvious torrential downpour of students looking to submit closer to the submission date. Last year, I referred at least five students to other busy editors, because my plate was full. These were students referred to me by another over-booked editor. Find your editor as soon as possible, and book them for the period that you intend to get your work edited. Don’t wait until desperation forces you to beg an editor to help out. Remember that editors may increase their rates if the turnaround time is short.

Mistake #3: My editor will know what I’m talking about.

Not true! Though we truly wish we could specialise in every field known to man, this is just impossible. Academic editors are specialists, yes. But, not necessarily in the discipline that you are completing your postgraduate degree in. Although your editor will look for obvious conceptual gaps and incomprehensible semantic leaps, they can’t know your field to the extent that you know it. Academic editors are experts in academic convention, style, structure, language, etc. and this they will apply without fail, but they won’t necessarily be able to discern whether your technical jargon rings true. Your supervisor/mentor has to step in here to guide you. If you start early, you may find a reputable academic editor that specialises in your field. For the most part, make sure your subject-specific nuances have been ironed out before editing takes place.

Mistake #4: I know all about reference editing.

Probably not! Reference editing is a maze of potential stumble blocks, where the slightest comma can trip you up completely. And, usually, once one of them is wrong, many others follow suit. Academic editors understand referencing conventions. Make sure you know which referencing style your institution follows and communicate this with your editor. They will make sure that references in the reference list and in-text are pruned to perfection. Invest in reference editing as it can cause a great deal of trouble if not done exactly right.

Mistake #5: My editor should be done in a few days.

Absolutely not! Academic editing is specialised work, which is painstakingly detailed. Dissertations and theses are long documents, books even, that need intensive attention. It is unfair to expect an editor to do their best work on an extremely tight turnaround time. Be kind and punctual. Factor in time for your editor to do their job well. As mentioned above, if you expect a quick turnaround, you will likely pay more for editing. Contact us to find out how much editing time you will need to factor in for your thesis:

Graduate on graduation day.       Very happy and proud on graduation day.

Nuance is here for you!

We at Nuance realise that this is a stressful time for you. We are keen to assist with your academic editing needs. Get in touch to book an editor for your dissertation or thesis. Contact us here or email us at All that you need to provide is an estimate of your document’s word count and the number of references in your reference list, then we can work out an estimate for you, and you can reserve your editor. Earning your postgraduate degree is a life-changing accomplishment and we would love to support you to the finish line.

“I strongly support… Nuance Editing and Writing, and I will definitely be sending my students their way when they need editing.”

– Dr. Suren Naicker, Senior Lecturer, University of South Africa.

Find our Rates & Services document attached:  Nuance_Rates_and_services


Written by Saskia

I am in love with language and the written word! I'm an editor, writer, linguist, project manager and entrepreneur. We started Nuance Editing & Writing in April 2020. We're steadily building our business and realising our vision as a content creation company.

Sep 8, 2020

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