Anytime you are uncertain about something, ask questions! You will find there are a number of challenges when editing secondary English, or enhancing the English writing of ESL writers, but the principal dilemma for some is deciphering the meaning of words or phrases in sentences when that meaning isn’t readily apparent. Even the very best copy editor should not ever guess at the meaning. There is never any shame in asking the writer. FirstEditing.com’s editors are highly qualified in secondary English editing, due in considerable part to their effective dissertation editing and thesis editing services.
You will always find writers looking for secondary English editing for their own manuscripts, and FirstEditing.com does quite a bit of manuscript editing. Secondary English editing may require a particularly talented editor. Most writers who are writing in ESL actually have a much better grasp of English grammar and punctuation than those writing in English as a native language! Given the quirky nature of the English language, the high quality of the theses, manuscripts, and other documents submitted to FirstEditing.com by writers in search of secondary English editing is rather impressive.
This variety of writing requires a lot of training for native English speakers to understand the ins and outs of our highly illogical vocabulary; consequently, smaller errors by those who didn’t grow up speaking English are more than understandable. Skilled editors see several errors that are practically universal in secondary English editing. Incorrect prepositions are almost guaranteed. Pronoun/subject agreement and verb tense may also be issues. They are really straightforward errors that are evident to any professional editor. Among the primary pitfalls in secondary English editing is the sentence that doesn’t make sense. The editor is cruising along, altering “of” to “to,” and “he” to “they,” when she suddenly comes across a sentence that makes no sense. On a regular basis, writers for whom English isn’t their native language get their words mixed up, in particular verbs. Occasionally, that’s why a sentence will make no sense.
Usually, the editor’s first instinct is to try and to figure out what the author meant. Often, the context is apparent. If it is just not clear what the author meant, an editor will have ask questions rather than edit the sentence. If the editor finds the ideal verb to insert, a question to the writer asking “Is this alteration okay?” is always recommended. If it truly is confusing, add a cautionary note to the writer saying “meaning not apparent,” or something equally simple. Occasionally it goes against an editor’s grain to do that.
A skilled editor desires to become–and is–the authority. However, a professional editor isn’t a mind reader. The biggest responsibility from the editor’s position is to support the author, and to not add anything that’s incorrect to the author’s dissertation, thesis, or manuscript. Some editors are afraid that the writer will think the editor just is not carrying out her job if she doesn’t revise the sentence. Most writers, though, appreciate feeling as although they’re a part of the editing process. After all, it really is their creation. For that reason, in secondary English editing, when the meaning is unclear, don’t guess–question.