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Choosing an Online Editor

Selecting the right online editor to assist with your academic work can be a daunting task. There are numerous sites available, some quite good and others less so, and telling the difference between them isn't necessarily easy. After all, if you're not immersed in the world of grammar, how do you know what to look for when surfing the academic editing pages posted online? There are, fortunately, a few marks of the quality an editor that do, if you know what to look for, reveal their relative skills. The following are just a few key questions to ask when considering an online editor. The list is brief; however, the editor you choose should, at minimum, have these basic concerns in order:

Does the editor you're considering use the serial comma? If you don't see a comma before the third item in a series (e.g., "dogs, cats, and balloons"), you'll definitely want to move on. The serial comma isn't merely a question of taste or preference; it's both an MLA and APA style requirement.

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Are semicolons in the right place? Correct use of the semicolon is a tell-tale sign of an experienced editor. The semicolon, like the period, separates two complete sentences, so you should see a subject and a verb on either side of this tricky punctuation mark. (The contraction "it's" in the item above, for example, occurs after the semicolon and contains both the subject "it" and the verb "is" in that sentence.) For experienced editors and writers, the semicolon is fairly simple. So do check to make sure it's used correctly.

Is capitalization irregular? Look closely at phrases the editing website is choosing to capitalize. Do phrases like "Our Site Educated Editors" appear in word-initial caps (as they do in the quotes here)? If so, your document is likely to suffer; even worse, if you're working on a thesis or dissertation it's almost certain to get kicked back for revisions. APA and MLA are quite specific about which phrases should and should not be capitalized. These are not among them. Good editors don't resort to irregular usage to emphasize the point of their copy; they use the natural rhythms of language to create emphasis within the rules of grammar, which is precisely what they ought to do in your essay, thesis, or dissertation.

Does the editing site suggest affiliation with an Ivy League university? If so, check their credentials and, if necessary, contact the editors' mentors. Chances are you'll be disappointed, as many editing sites use ambiguous language to suggest a connection that doesn't actually exist. Keep in mind, meanwhile, that not every Ivy League academic major places the same emphasis on writing, and that Ivy League schools themselves can and do produce bad writers. That's why good thinkers come to us for better writing.
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