by Christine O’Neill
A voyage of discovery
Although academic editing and proofreading presents various challenges, I find it exciting most of all because its content is interesting and varied. From historical research into jurists of Damascus in past centuries to recent real estate developments in Beirut; from the research of regional geography into patterns of migration to literary research into the importance of understanding second-person storytelling: academic work continues to broaden my mind and makes the world a more interesting place. But then, it is not only the content as such that fascinates but also the way arguments are constructed and relevant contexts sketched. Reading a well-wrought academic essay is a voyage of discovery.
Time and effort
Much time and effort goes into scholarly writing, and its quality is crucial to an academic career. That’s where the value of the services of a qualified editor and proofreader comes in. A researcher’s close and prolonged engagement with a subject tends to make critical distance elusive, and a professional pair of eyes taking a hard if sympathetic look at the writing is often of considerable benefit. Phrasing a complex argument in an uncomplicated manner is a serious challenge for most writers, and the skills of an experienced editor and proofreader may simplify and enhance their style considerably. Personally, I get great satisfaction from improving a text in whatever way I can.
Relationship of trust
Developing a relationship of trust with an academic whose research I admire is an added bonus. Researchers tend to be self-critical, and it is gratifying to support them in making the strongest possible argument. Not a few have acknowledged that my professional intervention has improved their work, and once a relationship of trust has been established, my services are often called upon again.
I should point out here that I’m not talking about improving student work but rather rendering a service to an established writer. Working with students is often fraught with difficulties of various sorts, be they legal, ethical or financial.
A specialist network
First and foremost, I believe that my own scholarly pursuits have qualified me to offer academic editing and proofreading services. Having years ago researched, written and published a PhD – a stylistic study of a part of James Joyce’s Ulysses – and several books and many essays since, I know what’s involved in that kind of writing beyond mere attention to detail and consistency. Also helpful is my wide network of colleagues with various specialities who are always prepared to advise. Even though academia is highly competitive by its nature, I never fail to be impressed by the generous attitude of individuals. Since I work as a translator (English to German/German to English) in addition to editing and proofreading, I am used to looking not only at every word but also taking specific cultural contexts into consideration. Finally, due to long experience, I am attuned to issues that may arise in texts written by non-native speakers of English.
My international clients are based mainly in Europe and the Middle East. I work with both individuals and research institutions and enjoy the mix. The work with institutions often involves research summaries, overviews and reports, whereas individuals usually focus on a single topic. Other recent commissions include work for museums, publishers and artists. As in any area of proofreading and editing, it may be easier to negotiate fees with institutions that have an allocated budget rather than individuals who may have to pay for professional services themselves. One way or the other, academic proofreading and editing is hardly a professional area for one seeking riches. But then, life is not all about money.
Joys and challenges
Every job has its joys and challenges. My personal challenges tend to be long, complex footnotes as well as extensive bibliographies and meticulous style sheets; however, these are compensated for by ever different topics, intelligent arguments and novel insights.
Christine O’Neill is a freelance translator, editor and proofreader of German and English texts. She is an associate member of the Irish Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association and a Full Member of AFEPI Ireland. She holds a PhD from the University of Zurich and an MPhil (in Anglo-Irish literature) from Trinity College Dublin. Her professional background and particular interests are literature, linguistics, the arts and culture generally.
Christine can be contacted via the AFEPI Ireland Members’ Directory or through her website at www.christineoneill.ie.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AFEPI Ireland.