Writing can be started in business meetings using techniques such as spider diagrams, brainstorming, word banking or mind mapping. The results are captured on whiteboards or flip-chart sheets on which executives have wielded chunky, multicoloured pens and scrawled inspired thoughts from the heat of their discussion.
Ideas can come from concerned groups, assembled to come up with specific solutions. These could be handwritten on index cards clagged up around the walls, to be poured over, added to and mashed together with different thoughts. Some meetings even end up with pearls of wisdom hastily scrawled on Post-It notes in three sizes and five fluorescent hues, stuck all over a boardroom’s polished table.
After these meetings someone is tasked with cobbling together the different threads into an action plan. It is going to be a report that is needed urgently and must be in corporate style, like last year’s. There may be an in-house communications officer who has the time to compile it in the available time and to the standard needed. But to be sure it is fit to send to the executive group then it needs to go through a copy-edit.
Copy-editing will make the content consistent, it will check spelling, punctuation and grammar. It will improve the overall style and professionalism and make the report more business-like while preserving the creativity and ideas generated in the original meeting. Sections may be unclear or repetitive and a copy-editor will offer helpful suggestions or at least bring it to the attention of someone who can amend it before the report is finalized.
A copy-editor can also prepare a bespoke style sheet for this company so that the document can be used as a model for producing future reports consistently and efficiently.
The output from this process will be a well-checked document, which should flow as though it had been written by one author following a recognized corporate style.
A piece of writing can be the outcome of months, even years, of painstaking research that could have involved trips to ancient library books, recording hours of first-hand testimony, reviewing stacks of questionnaires or crunching numbers in large spreadsheets. All this work needs to be honed into, say, a university-specified word count by a university-specified deadline and formatted as a thesis or dissertation.
If someone other than the researcher were to rewrite sections of the manuscript it would not represent the researcher’s effort, which is what a thesis or dissertation is designed to do. Where editorial services are being used to assist in their preparation there needs to be due concern for the ethics of the process. Some copy-editing tasks could overstep what should be amended in a document that is to be presented for examination by anyone other than the researcher.
Nevertheless, especially where the researcher is not writing in their native language, the task of writing up this length of manuscript is very demanding and typos and transcription errors are bound to creep in. To ensure that the work is as readable and clear as possible for the examiners it can be very worthwhile to invest in a fresh pair of eyes, trained to spot writing problems – this is a job for a proofreader.
Some academic writing is tailored for specific journals, each with their own professional and consistent preferences and styles. Often, manuscripts are reviewed by a panel as part of the acceptance process, which makes it especially important that they are of as high a quality as they can be.
Proofreading will make a document easier to read and give it a more professional finish. It will reduce spelling errors, remove unnecessarily duplicated words and make capitalization and hyphenation consistent. A proofreader can improve the look of a document by checking, for example, that pages are not too gappy, that cross-references are correct and that different fonts and styles are applied appropriately. A proofread also checks that tables and figures are correctly placed in relation to the text and are labelled clearly with suitable and consistent captions. All these checks will make an examiner’s task easier by ensuring that they aren’t distracted by the style and can focus on the content.