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By Nicole M. Roccas
Nearly a year ago, I decided to strike out on my own and become a freelance academic editor.
It wasn’t a hasty decision—I was about to finish my PhD in history and had been considering career options for several years. During that time, I took on small, short-term copy editing jobs I found through friends or online job sites. Editing, I found, came naturally and complemented my tendency to be fastidious with written language.
Nonetheless, when I finally launched my own editing business, I encountered a steep learning curve. As I reflect on the past year, here’s what I’ve learned—and continue to learn.
By Samita Sarkar
Some time ago, when I was a student at York University, an English professor warned us against the dangers of having our papers professionally edited, equating it with co-writing and plagiarism. I wondered if this were true, since various editing businesses openly distributed their cards around campus. When I opened my editing business a few months ago, I realized there was a high demand for editing papers, theses, and academic journal submissions, so as a new business person I had to re-evaluate my professor’s advice. That same professor had thought that online courses promoted “lazy learning,” so maybe I didn’t have to agree with her on everything! After all, there is a huge difference between writing and editing.
Still, an editor must consider a number of things before agreeing to take on an assignment in academics, whether it involves an essay, a thesis, or a journal submission. In this field in particular, it is especially important to draw an ethical line as to where editing ends and rewriting begins.
Before accepting a project in academics, or indeed in any field, editors should ask their client to sign a contract that makes it crystal clear to all parties what will and will not be done as part of the editorial assignment. The sample contract provided on the EAC website is a great place to start; it includes an indemnity clause which protects editors from issues such as copyright infringement on the part of the author. The EAC document also provides guidelines for ethical editing of dissertations. As an added safeguard, editors can ask students to have their professor or supervisor co-sign a contract before editing commences.