There are some folks around the world who will say English is an easy language to learn.
And, to an extent, they are right. The basics can be simple without needing to memorize
cases and genders of each noun, yet the intricacies and patterns of English can be a true
nuisance in the long run.
Nothing makes sense and there are more exceptions to the rule than there are conformant words.
So, it’s easy to see how minor errors creep into academic editing when the correct proofreading techniques have not been used. Yet, these are the reasons behind work being rejected by academic publishers and digital research libraries.
No matter the duration, effort, manpower or findings behind the groundbreaking results, if the work does not conform to general English standard, it will be rejected before the peer review stage has even completed.
Here at Kuttura, our primary objective is to ensure your work is optimized to be published. So, we’ve put together the comprehensive guide to becoming published through the art of proofreading. Here’s what we will be covering:
Understanding the reasons behind academic proofreading can be vital to claiming your
rights and success as a published researcher. Yet, understanding how proofreading in the
academic editing field varies to others such as book proofing (which can be far less
capricious) is also a crucial part of the journey.
When it comes to academic proofreading, the styles must be consistent, the layout needs to be functional and the read-through must be coherent to a high extent by native-English speakers.
In this field, the definition of proofreading extends beyond checking for spelling mistakes or grammar errors; it can refer to cross-platform formatting and confirmation that necessary components like headers and page numbers are correctly incorporated.
1. Why Proofreading Techniques are the Most Critical Aspect of Publishing Strategies
Proofreading is the final stage to writing before it heads for academic publishing or
any other publishing for that matter. This step is what turns your multitude of drafts
into the finished piece.
When a piece of work is proofread by yourself and by others, it is a process of allowing for the flow of reading. When you have published work out in the world ready for people to use, you want them to be able to coherently understand and reference the work with the right concepts in mind.
With the likes of JStor, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Lancet all being academic publishing giants in the online sphere, it is important to look toward them for ideas on where to focus your academic proofreading.
Let’s take a glance at JStor; it is an online library where publishers choose to exhibit particular research pieces and studies for open access on a subscription basis. One of the participators of academic publishing within JStor is Bradford Books (MIT Press). In order to be published by MIT Press – a globally renowned publisher – your work must conform to their orthodox values; “our commitment to experimentation while maintaining the highest quality standards”.
2. The Reason Your Work Might Not Be Being Published
Now you know the importance of proofreading to become a published name among
a sea of researchers in an online library, it’s time to consider why quality is so highly
As many academic sources will state, proofreading is the key component behind reducing negative liability. This is because it will very often pick-up many of the smaller, infrequent and overlooked mistakes in the piece of research.
The benefits of proofreading can be endless to your name, your institution and your future as a researcher. By enlisting publishing strategies into your drafting process, you will be ensuring the professionalism and likelihood of being published among many other positive aspects.
Here’s a non-conclusive list of profits to be earned through viable academic editing investments:
Overlooking these benefits while being transient toward the proofreading techniques can land you in the all-too-familiar position of being rejected by academic publishing boards.
3. Knowing Which Aspects of Your Work Needs to be Proofread
As we’ve said, it’s not likely to be your hard work or research at the cause of rejected
academic publishing; it’ll be the copy. So, don’t go into the proofreading and editing
process under the impression you’re going to have to change your entire content
In fact, content adjustment or alignment is not part of proofreading at all. This is because proofreading is very commonly misconstrued with editing. And, while the two definitely intertwine in many contexts, when it comes to polishing a final draft, this is not one of them.
As you embark on the written component of research, you’ll constantly be drafting and re-drafting the overall content of the paper. This is called editing. However, the inal stage before proofreading is when all the details are fine-tooth combed into place. It helps to think of editing as changing the order of paragraphs while proofreading is changing the order of words within a sentence.
But, this doesn’t mean it can ever be overlooked. Editing through various drafts does not always pick-up the numerable errors within a paper. In reality, there are core components within the English language schemas that need their own spotlight before you can send your work to the journals:
a. Word Usage
When we say ‘word usage’ we’re not simply referring to the spelling of
individual words. We mean to ponder whether each word has been expertly
placed and utilized in order to portray the correct message.
A specific implementation of words in a particular order and emphases can add or remove power to particular findings in your research. For example: rather than continuing a running streak of using classic words such as ‘supports’ or ‘challenges’, try spicing up the paper with more powerful words. Synonyms for support could include the likes of: substantiates, anchors, confirms, corroborates, underlines, concurs or harmonizes.
Similarly, other words to contrast would include: questions, disputes, rebuts, refutes, disproves, rejects or invalidates.
Leading on from this point, it’s important to understand the level of word repetition that could distract or devalue a research paper. Sometimes, a reader can feel as though they are being given the same information twice and other times it can indicate or be evident of insufficient knowledge.
Grammar is the code underlying the format and flow of any given language. It
partners with punctuation in order to guarantee a sentence can be read with
the right intention and inflection.
There are three rules most important when ensuring your proofreading techniques and academic editing are promoting eloquent grammar.
The first is interchangeable with the likes of punctuation: commas. The correct usage of commas will effectively separate clauses and allow for the coherent read-through. It also precedes the address of a person and coordinates adjectives.
Secondly, there’s the subject and verb pact whereby all subjects and verbs must match in plurality even in the case of separated clauses. For example, if the subject is plural, so must be the verb.
Third up is the use of homophones. These are one of the most common downfalls that can decrease the value and likelihood of academic publishing for a research paper. Regardless of whether you’re a native English writer or using English as a second language, it is the most crucial part to context and meaning.
Common homophone mistakes include: ‘complement and compliment’, ‘to and too’, ‘their, there and they’re’, ‘your and you’re’, ‘affect and effect’, ‘which and witch’, ‘accept and except’, ‘whether and weather’, ‘then and than’ and ‘here and hear’ among many others.
Sibling to the classic proofreading element of grammar, all the small dots,
dashes, parenthesis, lines, curves and symbols that are not letters of the
alphabet or part of the numbering system need to have close attention, too.
An example would be using an apostrophe in the correct place for word
context (think about the use of ‘its and ‘it’s’; both are correct yet only within
their framework where one is a conjunction of ‘it is’ and the other denotes
Another instance where punctuation is vital – especially in the case of academic proofreading as part of your publishing strategies – is the use of brackets in referencing.
Other punctuational usage you should keep a close look out for includes:
Spelling can be the very first sign of trouble for many readers of a document.
In the case of peer reviewing studies and research prior of academic publishing, they’ll often reject work with frequent spelling mistakes within the first few pages.
In fact, across the top-tier research journals and publishers in the US, there is a rejection rate average of 85%. Meaning only 15% of research papers reach publishing and will display a keen eye to the likes of spelling.
In perfect serendipity, and as part of the artillery in their online library, JStor has featured many research papers on the importance of spelling, within which it’s confirmed that document spelling errors recurrently meet connotations of incredulity.
So, don’t forget; ‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C’ or all the other exceptions! (E.g. weird, forfeit, glacier, seize and more).
The ordering of words is very important when trying to prove a point through
the likes of academic writing.
For example: in order to discuss color preferences between study participants, you would say; “80% of participants preferred the color blue to the color red”. Changing the order of this sentence to; “80% of participants preferred the color red to the color blue” conveys the incorrect message. The art of ordering words to carry a specific message is called syntax. A way to ensure your syntax is correct as part of publishing strategies for academic editing, try to fact-check as you progress. This can be done with your own data or with the data collected through a literature review.
This is the art of persuasion and the know-how applied to a piece of text in
order to allure your audience into your way of thinking and share the
overarching conclusion to the study.
An effective rhetoric strategy will enlist the help of two of the three rhetoric forms. The first being logos which appeals to the logic of reasoning, the second being pathos referring to the emotive response of the reading and final is the ethos which calls to find the ethical perceptions of the study.
Often, in the likes of a research paper destined for academic editing, the rhetoric used will feature logos. From there, it’s up to you if you’d like to appeal to the emotional response or ethical perceptions of your audience in order to persuade them to your hypothesis.
However, with academic proofreading, you want to ensure the rhetoric is consistent throughout the paper from hypothesis to conclusion, so your audience is not lost, and your ideas are effectively framed.
As we’ve previously touched upon, the words and content of the research is
not the only aspect of proofing needed to have focused when aiming for
What we haven’t, yet, mentioned is that proofreading techniques of formatting covers the ground for four different aspects:
- Page Formatting
Ensuring your header includes the date and title of the research while
the footer features the page numbers and your name as the author.
As well as this, it’s key to pay attention to the submission requirements of the publishing body. For example: some may request all work to be left-aligned.
- Quote Formatting
As per the use of many referencing and citation rules, Harvard, APA or
MLA will require long quotes to be given their own paragraph. For
Harvard, it’s quotes longer than 25 words, for APA it’s quotes 40
words or longer and for MLA, it’s quotes longer than four lines.
This paragraph needs to be indented ½ an inch from the rule of your
standard text, making it appear to be a smaller box of text within your
body of text.
- Reference Formatting
Ensuring your references are standardized to the reference system of
your academic publishing company is critical. Most out there will use
Harvard, APA or MLA but double-check with your publishing
Most publishing houses will state that correct reference formatting should credit the author whose work you are utilizing. It should cover the author’s name, the date of the study, the name of the paper, the name of the academic publishing company they used and the exact page of the quote within the paper. But, again, check with the publishers!
- Content Formatting
The final aspect is the overall look of the on-page content. For
example, a publishing house may require all submitted content to
have paragraphs at 2.0 and an effective use of headings and
subheadings in order to guide the reader through the paper.
Don’t forget to also include: a front page, abstract, contents page, appendices, bibliography and end page.
However, it is always a subjective matter that should be confirmed by the editor of the publishing house. For example: for MIT Press, you can contact the MIT Press Editor (or, acquisitions staff member) of your relevant topic who will provide the correct guidelines for submission.
4. Tips and Techniques for Proofreading and Editing Your Work
It’s important to understand that proofreading can be done in many different ways.
While some proofreading techniques may come naturally and allow for fast-paced
academic editing styles, others will need to employ publishing strategies that enable
efficient academic proofreading to be completed.
Whether you find you’re a natural proofreader or need that extra hand is something you can find out. But, in the meantime, here at Kuttura, we wanted to share some simple – yet effective – professional English proofreading techniques.
a. Use a Checklist
The first thing you should do is use a checklist. Like the one we’ve listed
above for the aspects of work that need attention while proofreading.
Sometimes, just having a checklist is a prudent reminder. Looking at it will help you remember the necessary steps of proofreading that should be taken in order to be accepted for academic publishing.
b. Mentally Prepare Yourself
This may appear to be a given but allowing space and time to follow a new
routine of getting into the right headspace of proofreading can be all you
need to polish your work to a high standard.
With world leaders (like Winston Churchill) and the names behind tech giants (such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) all devising their own rituals, it seems as though it would be smart to take a leaf out of their book.
Here’s some tried and tested methods of pre-proofing rituals you can use to get on track:
c. Avoid Any Distraction
Many studies have shown time and time-again that trying to focus on a piece
of work while surrounded by distractions such as being in a loud place, having
kids come to talk or keeping your phone nearby will always result in sub-par
And, in the case of academic proofreading of your research, you want to maximize your efforts toward becoming published.
One of the most effective ways to beat the tempts of crowding distraction is to remove yourself, head to a quiet space and/or utilize noise cancelling headphones while leaving cell devices in a separate room.
d. Print Off the Work
Instead of walking in the shoes of an academic or publisher, here’s where you
begin to secure your ‘proofreading’ thinking cap.
A popular choice in the long list of proofreading techniques is to print work onto paper with your words double-line spaced. It can facilitate reading the pages off-screen and provide a mark-up with a pen to revise again later.
Using this technique is also one of the best ways to review your common mistakes and changes. Perhaps they’re all at the beginning of the paper demonstrating it can take you some time to get into the right mindset of writing. Or, it could be that spelling is a particularly weak area in need of improvement.
e. Use a Different Colored Pen
Much like with printing work for a mark-up, using a bold color such as a red
pen or the red marker on a tablet emphasizes changes made throughout your
academic editing and proofreading process.
If red invokes anxious feelings, reach for blue, green, orange, purple or any other color to clearly protrude against black ink. A bonus includes requesting a proof from a friend who can review your mark-up for further changes needed or query mark-up notes.
f. Read the Words Aloud
This is an especially useful technique when trying to proofread word usage,
grammar, rhetoric, inflection emphasis and syntax.
Reading your research paper aloud will allow you to hear inconsistencies as
well as providing space to stutter or read incorrectly when the syntax or
grammar needs to adapt.
g. Find Time in the Morning
There are many writers who adopt this technique of sleeping on the work
(not in a literal sense) and returning in the morning when the brain has
rested, and you are at your most alert.
Morning proofreading for an academic publishing company is one of the ways you can ensure the fewest inconsistencies slip through your fingers prior to being sent to the publishing house.
This is also a great way to incorporate a routine; wake, splash the face, make a cup of your favorite coffee and get down to work.
h. Cheat with an Online Spellchecker and Editor
We’re not here to say that you should be able to proofread without the aid of
software or resources that can provide a keen hand. Quite the opposite.
While not all proofreading and editing software will flag every mistake or
understand the reasoning behind particular words or phrases, they are the
perfect tool to highlight a missing comma, misspelled word or complex
Some popular tools that are online and free include Grammarly and Hemingway Editor App. While they won’t perfect your research and prevent the need for a full proofread of the paper, they can help you in areas of proofreading that can be difficult such as spelling and grammar.
i. Get Someone Else to Have a Look
Having a fresh pair of eyes overlook your work is more crucial to success than
you might think. Not only can they flag preventable and unnecessary
mistakes throughout the document, they also provide a key review of the
While they can’t demand changes in your studies, the processes or the findings, they can inform you about biased opinions that have been sewn into the nature of the research.
There are two places you can go for this service; either to family or friends or to a professional proofreading company who can provide a fully comprehensive and professional review of the written content. Although the former can be the cheapest method, the latter is most likely to gain access to academic publishing houses.
j. Use a Dictionary
When you’re worried about running into the dreaded homophone
conundrum we mentioned earlier, you could always keep a handy dictionary
close by. Then, search the word you’d like to write in lieu of ensuring its
definition and usage in the correct context.
This is the best option for those without direct and permanent access to the internet and can be a savior when writing the research paper in the first place.
And, with that, we draw a close to the comprehensive guide to becoming published through the art of proofreading. As long as the aforementioned attributes of proofreading have been addressed and the proofreading techniques have been employed, your work will no longer be subject to rejection or ridicule by an academic publishing service.
For more information on proofreading services, consider Kuttura: the proofreading and editing experts offering professional English proofing obstacle avoidance. We are the editors who will help get your important and relevant work out there on the open libraries for all to see through academic publishing.