Editing, General

Ten top tips from Gold Leaf’s academic journals editor, Jim Bennett

Jim has been editing academic journal articles at Gold Leaf for almost a decade. In his experience, authors don’t seem to understand that their submissions should be as perfectly crafted as possible. He says he is constantly surprised that authors are so careless about how they express themselves; he adds that even his meticulous editorial commentary doesn’t guarantee subsequent improvement. Perhaps the following will help as an aide-memoire.

Here are Jim’s top tips to save at least some of the time spent on revisions by authors, editors and reviewers.

  • The language and tone of the article must be appropriate to context and purpose.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency! (For example, if you establish a particular tense sequence, you must adhere to it; if you give an acronym with first usage of, say, a group’s title, use the acronym throughout – don’t revert at random to the full title.)
  • Try to achieve readability for the ordinary alert educated reader – avoid jargon where possible and don’t use long words where short ones will do.
  • Avoid metaphor, especially clichéd metaphor. (You might think your ‘emperor has no clothes’ is appropriate – it isn’t, as it’s terribly hackneyed!). And, if you really must use metaphors, don’t mix them!
  • Avoid long and complicated lists; keep all lists to a minimum. (Your reader doesn’t need to be swamped with ‘comprehensive’ detail – no list is ever comprehensive! 😉 – just because you wish to demonstrate your wonderfully broad command of a topic.)
  • Aim for clear English, generally expressed in short sentences and, wherever possible, use active verbs, not passive.
  • Religiously eliminate all information extraneous to your article’s main thrust.
  • Apply appropriate citation protocols and, in your reference list, conform exactly and consistently to the practice of the publisher. If a ‘style sheet’ is provided, follow it!
  • Discoverability is your watchword. Help your reader by always providing relevant and correct URLs, ISBNs, ISSNs and DOIs.  Ensure that the url both functions and takes the reader to the cited page(s), not home pages.
  • Read the document aloud (in your head!) to identify unwanted solecisms, repetitions and stylistic infelicities.

And just a couple of general points:

Computer software has eliminated the need for a double space after a full stop, which typists using conventional typewriters were taught to apply. Use one space only – and certainly DON’T use a mixture of one and two and even three spaces! (Consistency again! 😊)

It’s unhelpful to apply formatting to a journal submission – the publisher imposes a format for the journal and shouldn’t have to unpick the author’s. Use plain Word.

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