Last updated on May 26th, 2018
Dismay is not an uncommon response of a student-scholar on first encountering an academic editor’s markups on a thesis or dissertation. Some edited manuscripts have literally hundreds of so-called “redlines” (i.e., deletions and additions), not to mention dozens of Comments ranging from simple reminders to detailed recommendations for major structural change. Some authors are overwhelmed; others are surprised. For all, however, and especially those who are staring at an academic edit for the first time, the question of the moment is whether there is a rational approach to wading through all of this “red ink” in such a way as to produce a superior editorial outcome.
A redline edit is a local event. Such an edit affects a word, phrase, sentence, or occasionally a paragraph. When thinking about redlines, think small. Some authors think they should check each redline edit individually and “Accept” or “Reject” it individually. Other authors, quickly becoming impatient with the tedium of the process, decide, after they spot-check a few pages here and there, that they trust their editor. These authors simply “Accept” all of the redline edits, hoping for the best, but thereby accomplishing in a single keystroke what might otherwise have taken hours.
Unlike redlines, “Comments” are global. Think big. A Comment may ask the author to reformat an entire manuscript, deleting or reordering whole paragraphs or sections. Or, a Comment may be a mini-lesson on the use of semicolons in lists, or the importance of parallelism across compounds (“and”)-literally anything at all that the editor believes will help the author to improve the manuscript. Regardless of its substance, the author has no choice but to consider each Comment one at a time, decide its validity, make the adjustment in the text, and then delete the Comment.
Therefore, given the nature of redlines and Comments, there are a few purely logical considerations that offer practical guidance on how to approach them.
First, since Comments can be global and can relate to the entire manuscript, handle these first. Set “All Markup” to “Simple Markup” so that the redlines will not get in the way. Select “Show Comments” so that the full text of the Comments will appear. Get started.
Second, turn off “Show Comments” and turn on “All Markup” so that all of the redlines appear. Run through the manuscript (a) bypassing redlines dealing with grammatical and mechanical errors and (b) fixing and “Accepting” all redlines, such as word choice, for which the final decision is yours to make. This will leave a residual pool that should consist only of redlines that correct grammatical and mechanical errors.
Third, click “Accept All Changes and Stop Tracking,” thereby deleting the remaining redlines-the grammatical and mechanical error pool-with a single keystroke.
This is admittedly a fuzzy procedure, one that will never apply exactly as I have described it. However, the underlying principles are sound and will get you started in an orderly way. The successful incorporation of your academic editor’s work holds the key to a polished, high quality manuscript.