The editor’s role at ecrLife is to help an author convey their message to the widest possible audience and to provide constructive feedback to help authors improve their writing.
As academics we’re far too used to giving and receiving blunt, direct feedback. Try to resist this impulse and give feedback that’s positive, constructive and that doesn’t alienate the author. This means first identifying some positives in the piece followed by measured criticism.
“This is extremely well-written, I barely needed to edit your writing. I do think we need to work on the structure a bit, here are my thoughts.”
“Your piece is constructed beautifully, I’ve just edited a few grammatical errors and typos.”
“This is such a fantastic idea, do you think you could perhaps phrase it more directly for the reader?”
When you receive a pitch, you have to decide whether to say “Yes”, “Yes with these changes” and “Pass”. Occasionally you will receive a well-crafted take on a new topic or idea that is just perfect. More often though, we receive pitches that need some work. In these cases, give feedback that helps the author clarify the message behind the article they are pitching. This involves asking the author to read articles that may be published elsewhere that have similar takes or thinking of ways in which the author can bring novelty to their work. You may want to think about what part of the pitch really speaks to you and guide authors to focus on that. There’s no clear rule here but try to shape a pitch to be as novel and as striking as it can possibly be.
Rejecting/Passing on a pitch: In some cases you may find a pitch that offers nothing new to the conversation on a particular topic. You should feel empowered as an editor to reject such pitches by simply saying that the author should try pitching something more novel or exciting. Remember that every accepted pitch is also a time-commitment from you as an editor and be prepared to say no to pitches that you feel warrant rejection.
Editing the first draft
When you look at a first draft try to first consider things like content structure rather than immediately fixating on grammar and language (I know how tempting that is!). The first thing you need to do is look for large structural changes that would make the article easier to read and comprehend. This means getting rid of repetitive sentences and paragraphs, often asking authors to shorten their introduction and tightening up the message overall. Don’t be afraid to use the “Delete” key!
IMPORTANT: The first two-three sentences are the most important part of the article. The reader should be captivated and should get an idea of the message contained and described in the rest of the article. Pay extra attention to this part of the draft and make sure it's tight and on-point.
After you make structural edits, send the draft to the author and then proceed with the revised version:
Once you’re happy with the structure of the piece, proceed to make line edits. Line edits involve going through the document line by line and identifying things like overused words, abrupt changes in tense, tone, confusing sentences and paragraphs. Feel free to suggest alternate words etc.
The final step in the process involves correcting grammar and typos. At this point make sure to check that all assertions are supported and feel free to ask the author to link to an extra reference or remove a statement that is not factual etc.
At this point you should be able to read the article and feel happy with the flow, the language, the voice and the structure.
Interviews can be longer than the 1100 word limit. When editing interviews try to avoid editing the interviewees words and instead trim the text by shortening the questions, or deleting entire questions and answers. If you need to edit an interviewee’s response, make sure you get written approval of the edits.
We can accept anonymous articles (for e.g. in cases where the author fears recrimination) similar to The Guardian’s Academics Anonymous series. However, the identity of the author must be known to the editor. Anonymous articles will also be fact-checked like other articles on the website. Anonymous articles may not mention the identity of an institution or PI, especially if they are portrayed negatively.
No allowed: “I work at the University of Narnia, which fails to uphold even the most basic rules for equity in promotion.”
Allowed: “I work at a major research university, which fails to uphold even the most basic rules for equity in promotion.”