Most freelance editors who hang a shingle on the web can competently flip a phrase, spot a non-parallel construction, and format references according to style. Their writing, generally, is not terrible; as a rule, good editors are also good writers. Many editors and writers lack marketing savvy, but how much marketing talent is needed to edit a scholarly piece on, say, the light sensitivity of thalamic neurons? Even so, I'm of the mindset that writers of scholarly material cannot and should not forego all thoughts of marketing. Indeed, your job, as author, beyond conducting research and writing the piece, is to make it easy for the editor to say YES.
How do you make it easy for an editor to say YES? Beyond delivering good thinking and good writing, both of which mean less editing, by following the often explicit instructions in the publication's submission guidelines, also known as author’s guidelines, writer’s guidelines, or editor’s guidelines. Consider this document a description of the “desired state” of your article, often in terms of major sections, writing style, and citations. Before I edit, I review those guidelines and, in some cases, a current issue of the publication, to understand exactly what an editor wants. Then I review the piece to identify gaps between its current and desired states, and develop a plan to fill those gaps.
This type of editing goes far beyond simply reading for grammatical errors, typos, and misspellings. It goes to higher level concerns—content appropriateness, flow of reasoning, suitability of conclusions. If you're confident that your text is at the optimum desired state, then copy editing alone will serve you well. If, however, you are not confident that your text meets an editor’s requirements, then a substantive or even a developmental edit may be in order.
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