Logo for Dr Anna Clemens PhD who teaches scientific writing courses for researchers
Logo for Dr Anna Clemens PhD who teaches scientific writing courses for researchers

When and How to Hire an Editor or Writing Coach – A Comprehensive-ish Guide

When and How to Hire an Editor or Writing Coach – A Comprehensive-ish Guide

Do you need help with your scientific writing but don’t know who you should work with and what to look out for when hiring an academic writing coach or scientific editor? Then this post where I’m answering some frequently asked questions is for you – including tips on what you can do if you can’t afford a coach or editor.

I’ve been working as an academic writing coach (and previously as a scientific editor) for a few years now. I noticed there is a lot of confusion when it comes to what editors and writing coaches can do for researchers exactly. One common misconception is the word “proofreading”, which many scientists believe to be a synonym for editing. It’s not, as you’ll see below.

I think it’s important for every researcher to understand what level of writing support you need and what you can expect from the different kinds of editors and coaches you can work with.

What kind of writing support do you need?

Let’s have a look at the different types of academic writing coaching and scientific editing.

What is an Academic Writing coach?

An academic writing coach helps with various issues you may encounter during the writing process. There are some who help you write more productively, e.g. by creating a writing plan or building a writing routine. Then there are coaches who focus more on your actual writing.

I’m the bridge between the two types: I teach researchers a repeatable process to write clear and concise papers (that actually get published) time-efficiently. Click here if you’re curious about my work.

Working with a coach means learning writing techniques and developing your writing skills which you can apply in future projects rather than having someone fix a particular writing project for you.

Coaching is generally available either in 1:1 sessions or group formats. I offer an online course that individual researchers can enrol in any time.

are Developmental Editing AND Structural editing THE SAME?

Yes! Developmental editing and structural editing are the same thing — sometimes it’s even called substantive editing. It’s the most thorough form of editing your writing can receive and the area that I used to work in. Developmental edits really go to the core of the underlying story, concepts and structure of your paper. They look at your text as a whole and make sure everything you write is coherent and concise. They may move around or delete whole paragraphs, sentences and words and may suggest rewrites.

One aspect that I put a lot of emphasis on in developmental edits is storytelling. When I worked as a scientific editor, I made sure that all essential story elements were present in the text.

Some developmental editors include copy editing (see below) in their services so that you can be sure that the English is correct when they return the text to you. But not all developmental editors do this, so make sure to clarify what exactly is included in an editing package you purchase.

If you are looking for a developmental editor for your paper, I recommend choosing one who has a background in your field. It doesn’t need to be in the exact topic of your research but if you work on, let’s say, lithium ion batteries, it would be good if that person knew the fundamentals of solid-state chemistry or at least something about chemistry in general.

Learn with an academic writing coach

What is Language editing?

The term language editing is not clearly defined. It may refer to just copy editing or all the kinds of editing described in this post. Again, clarifying with the editor what is included in the edit is necessary.

Copy editor vs proof-reader

Copy editing and proof-reading are often confused by researchers! A copy editor corrects any spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. They will also improve the flow of your text, remove redundant words and sentences and resolve any inconsistencies in the text such as using different abbreviations for the same thing, referencing the wrong figure panel or using a mixture of UK and US spelling.

Proofreaders check for any grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes in the last draft of a manuscript. This means that the text has undergone developmental and copy editing already and is in good shape. In my experience, when researchers ask a scientific editor to proofread their manuscript, they mostly don’t actually mean proofreading but copy editing or developmental editing! Proofreading is the cheapest of all these options.

Copy-editing vs developmental editing

Copy editing focuses on the correct use of the English language in a text and isn’t as thorough as developmental editing (see above). You can compare copy editing to painting your bedroom walls. It improves the look and feel of the room but if you’re in an old, dilapidated house, it won’t fix the rotten load-bearing beam holding up your bedroom walls. To improve the structural integrity of your paper, you’ll need a developmental edits!

To add to the confusion around the different types of editing, sometimes people refer to copy editing when they mean all different levels of editing, developmental editing included. Make sure to check!

Hiring a copy editor is cheaper than hiring a developmental editor. When you only want your text to be copy edited, it’s less crucial to find an editor who matches your scientific background, though it can be advantageous.

When is the right time to hire an Academic WRITING Coach or SCIENTIFIC editor?

The right time to hire an academic writing coach or scientific editor very much depends on what kind of feedback you want. There is help out there for any stage of the writing process and your career.

Academic writing coaches can work with you on your writing in general, or on a particular paper – either before your start or during writing. A developmental editor can help when you have a first draft of your article, a copy editor once the structure of that draft is in place, and a proofreader once your text has been copy edited (by you or someone else). Generally, it may save you time (and multiple rewrites) if you hire a scientific editor early on in the process.

Getting help with writing can make sense at any point in your career. Even if you have already published dozens of articles, you may be surprised by the time-saving techniques an academic writing coach or scientific editor can teach you. However, investing in scientific writing support may be particularly worthwhile when you are an early career researcher, for example a PhD student, Postdoc or a new principal investigator.

The turn-around times of edits vary depending on how busy the editor is, how long your document is and how thorough the edit is. It is always a good idea to contact the editor early to reserve a spot in their calendar and avoid paying last-minute rates.

Register for a free training with an Academic Writing Coach

How to find the perfect ACADEMIC WRITING COACH OR SCIENTIFIC editor

There are a few factors to be aware of when you decide for an academic writing coach or scientific editor, and price shouldn’t be the only one to take into consideration. I would recommend browsing the websites and blogs of the editors and coaches you are considering. Do you resonate with their approach and the advice they are giving? What is their background? If they have an English or linguistics background, they may be well suited for copy-editing and proof-reading.

Someone with a scientific background close to yours may be the perfect choice for developmental editing. Also check whether the editor or coach has testimonials on their website and analyse whether previous clients got help with what you have in mind.

When you inquire about the services of a scientific editor or academic writing coach, be as specific as possible when you describe what you would like help with. If necessary, clarify what is included in their various offers. Also make sure to ask about availability and turnaround times. It always pays off to enquire early.

One word on price: Large editing companies who work with freelance editors may offer relatively low prices. But the value for money is often lower than working with independent editors who don’t have as much overhead to pay. With an independent editor, you also have the opportunity to get more customised writing support and a personal touch.  

Good luck with finding your perfect match!

DOES WORKING WITH AN ACADEMIC EDITOR OR ACADEMIC WRITING COACH ONLY MAKE SENSE FOR non-native English speakers?

No. Working with an academic writing coach or scientific editor is as useful for native speakers as it is for non-native speakers. It’s a common misconception that only non-native English speakers need writing help — I wrote an entire blog post on this! Knowing a language isn’t the same as knowing how to write well. Writing coaching and training in particular is money well invested for every researcher.

When you can’t afford writing coaching or editing

Would you like to get writing support, but don’t have the budget for it right now? If this is you, I’ve got a few tips for you:

  • Check what support your university or institution offers. Maybe there’s an academic writing course you can take. And it’s always worth asking for professional funding if you want to get outside support! You can use our guide to ask for funds.
  • Include a budget for editing or professional development in your next funding application. Not all grants cover this, but some do.
  • Watch my free writing training. It’s a bit more than an hour long. Prepare yourself for some mindset shifts that may change the way you approach the writing process!
Watch the free training with Academic Writing Coach Dr Anna Clemens

Share article

When and How to Hire an Editor or Writing Coach – A Comprehensive-ish Guide

Do you need help with your scientific writing but don’t know who you should work with and what to look out for when hiring an academic writing coach or scientific editor? Then this post where I’m answering some frequently asked questions is for you – including tips on what you can do if you can’t afford a coach or editor.

I’ve been working as an academic writing coach (and previously as a scientific editor) for a few years now. I noticed there is a lot of confusion when it comes to what editors and writing coaches can do for researchers exactly. One common misconception is the word “proofreading”, which many scientists believe to be a synonym for editing. It’s not, as you’ll see below.

I think it’s important for every researcher to understand what level of writing support you need and what you can expect from the different kinds of editors and coaches you can work with.

What kind of writing support do you need?

Let’s have a look at the different types of academic writing coaching and scientific editing.

What is an Academic Writing coach?

An academic writing coach helps with various issues you may encounter during the writing process. There are some who help you write more productively, e.g. by creating a writing plan or building a writing routine. Then there are coaches who focus more on your actual writing.

I’m the bridge between the two types: I teach researchers a repeatable process to write clear and concise papers (that actually get published) time-efficiently. Click here if you’re curious about my work.

Working with a coach means learning writing techniques and developing your writing skills which you can apply in future projects rather than having someone fix a particular writing project for you.

Coaching is generally available either in 1:1 sessions or group formats. I offer an online course that individual researchers can enrol in any time.

are Developmental Editing AND Structural editing THE SAME?

Yes! Developmental editing and structural editing are the same thing — sometimes it’s even called substantive editing. It’s the most thorough form of editing your writing can receive and the area that I used to work in. Developmental edits really go to the core of the underlying story, concepts and structure of your paper. They look at your text as a whole and make sure everything you write is coherent and concise. They may move around or delete whole paragraphs, sentences and words and may suggest rewrites.

One aspect that I put a lot of emphasis on in developmental edits is storytelling. When I worked as a scientific editor, I made sure that all essential story elements were present in the text.

Some developmental editors include copy editing (see below) in their services so that you can be sure that the English is correct when they return the text to you. But not all developmental editors do this, so make sure to clarify what exactly is included in an editing package you purchase.

If you are looking for a developmental editor for your paper, I recommend choosing one who has a background in your field. It doesn’t need to be in the exact topic of your research but if you work on, let’s say, lithium ion batteries, it would be good if that person knew the fundamentals of solid-state chemistry or at least something about chemistry in general.

Learn with an academic writing coach

What is Language editing?

The term language editing is not clearly defined. It may refer to just copy editing or all the kinds of editing described in this post. Again, clarifying with the editor what is included in the edit is necessary.

Copy editor vs proof-reader

Copy editing and proof-reading are often confused by researchers! A copy editor corrects any spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. They will also improve the flow of your text, remove redundant words and sentences and resolve any inconsistencies in the text such as using different abbreviations for the same thing, referencing the wrong figure panel or using a mixture of UK and US spelling.

Proofreaders check for any grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes in the last draft of a manuscript. This means that the text has undergone developmental and copy editing already and is in good shape. In my experience, when researchers ask a scientific editor to proofread their manuscript, they mostly don’t actually mean proofreading but copy editing or developmental editing! Proofreading is the cheapest of all these options.

Copy-editing vs developmental editing

Copy editing focuses on the correct use of the English language in a text and isn’t as thorough as developmental editing (see above). You can compare copy editing to painting your bedroom walls. It improves the look and feel of the room but if you’re in an old, dilapidated house, it won’t fix the rotten load-bearing beam holding up your bedroom walls. To improve the structural integrity of your paper, you’ll need a developmental edits!

To add to the confusion around the different types of editing, sometimes people refer to copy editing when they mean all different levels of editing, developmental editing included. Make sure to check!

Hiring a copy editor is cheaper than hiring a developmental editor. When you only want your text to be copy edited, it’s less crucial to find an editor who matches your scientific background, though it can be advantageous.

When is the right time to hire an Academic WRITING Coach or SCIENTIFIC editor?

The right time to hire an academic writing coach or scientific editor very much depends on what kind of feedback you want. There is help out there for any stage of the writing process and your career.

Academic writing coaches can work with you on your writing in general, or on a particular paper – either before your start or during writing. A developmental editor can help when you have a first draft of your article, a copy editor once the structure of that draft is in place, and a proofreader once your text has been copy edited (by you or someone else). Generally, it may save you time (and multiple rewrites) if you hire a scientific editor early on in the process.

Getting help with writing can make sense at any point in your career. Even if you have already published dozens of articles, you may be surprised by the time-saving techniques an academic writing coach or scientific editor can teach you. However, investing in scientific writing support may be particularly worthwhile when you are an early career researcher, for example a PhD student, Postdoc or a new principal investigator.

The turn-around times of edits vary depending on how busy the editor is, how long your document is and how thorough the edit is. It is always a good idea to contact the editor early to reserve a spot in their calendar and avoid paying last-minute rates.

Register for a free training with an Academic Writing Coach

How to find the perfect ACADEMIC WRITING COACH OR SCIENTIFIC editor

There are a few factors to be aware of when you decide for an academic writing coach or scientific editor, and price shouldn’t be the only one to take into consideration. I would recommend browsing the websites and blogs of the editors and coaches you are considering. Do you resonate with their approach and the advice they are giving? What is their background? If they have an English or linguistics background, they may be well suited for copy-editing and proof-reading.

Someone with a scientific background close to yours may be the perfect choice for developmental editing. Also check whether the editor or coach has testimonials on their website and analyse whether previous clients got help with what you have in mind.

When you inquire about the services of a scientific editor or academic writing coach, be as specific as possible when you describe what you would like help with. If necessary, clarify what is included in their various offers. Also make sure to ask about availability and turnaround times. It always pays off to enquire early.

One word on price: Large editing companies who work with freelance editors may offer relatively low prices. But the value for money is often lower than working with independent editors who don’t have as much overhead to pay. With an independent editor, you also have the opportunity to get more customised writing support and a personal touch.  

Good luck with finding your perfect match!

DOES WORKING WITH AN ACADEMIC EDITOR OR ACADEMIC WRITING COACH ONLY MAKE SENSE FOR non-native English speakers?

No. Working with an academic writing coach or scientific editor is as useful for native speakers as it is for non-native speakers. It’s a common misconception that only non-native English speakers need writing help — I wrote an entire blog post on this! Knowing a language isn’t the same as knowing how to write well. Writing coaching and training in particular is money well invested for every researcher.

When you can’t afford writing coaching or editing

Would you like to get writing support, but don’t have the budget for it right now? If this is you, I’ve got a few tips for you:

  • Check what support your university or institution offers. Maybe there’s an academic writing course you can take. And it’s always worth asking for professional funding if you want to get outside support! You can use our guide to ask for funds.
  • Include a budget for editing or professional development in your next funding application. Not all grants cover this, but some do.
  • Watch my free writing training. It’s a bit more than an hour long. Prepare yourself for some mindset shifts that may change the way you approach the writing process!
Watch the free training with Academic Writing Coach Dr Anna Clemens

Share article

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