It’s important to get words down on the page. Without it, you don’t have a thesis or dissertation. That being said, it’s not until the editing and revising and rewriting occurs that the real magic happens. What do I mean by that? If you submit a first draft, you likely get feedback like “tighten this up” or “get to the point.” If you’re writing a creative thesis or fiction manuscript, you might even be told to “kill your darlings.” Here at Thesis Editor, we see a lot of clients whose advisors have given such feedback, and we often help them pare down their text to what is needed.

Think of writing, especially academic writing, as a building. You have the blueprint (outline), the foundation, frame, and scaffolding, essential building materials, and then when it’s all built and done, the frilly additions like various kinds of shutters, trim, and assorted extras. In writing, you don’t need the fancy decorative trim. Think of writing as minimalist architecture. Clear, concise writing that isn’t bogged down with extras not only makes it easier for your audience to understand, but is also actually harder to do than flowery prose.

Here are some tips for decluttering your writing and cleaning up your text.

  1. When you reread your writing, bracket words that aren’t necessary. You’ll be surprised to see how much you can cut, and how crisp your writing will be once you eliminate the excess. Get rid of multiple words when one will suffice. If you don’t fully understand a subject or concept, it’s harder to write concisely about it, so be mindful of this and take the time to learn the ins and outs of your topic.

  2. Beware of adverbs and qualifiers. Many aren’t necessary, and they only clutter your writing and add redundancy. If you bracket unnecessary words when revising and rereading your writing, you may find a majority are adverbs (like “laughed happily.”) Qualifiers include “a bit,” “in a way,” and so forth. Not only are these unnecessary, but they also weaken your statements and diminish professionalism.

  3. Get rid of passive voice! This is one of the most common issues we see in academic writing, and your professors will likely comment on it as well. It’s not WRONG, per se, but it typically adds too many words and muddles writing that could be made more direct if changed.

  4. Shorten sentences. We’re not talking about run-on sentences, but very long sentences that have multiple ideas in them can often be separated into two, more concise sentences. This also helps to clarify the writing.

  5. Hire an editor! That’s what we’re here for.

Writing doesn’t come easily to everyone, and academic writing can be difficult. Hiring an objective editor can help you identify your strengths and challenges, assist you in clarifying what you want to say, and help you move forward with the feedback your readers and committee have given you. When you’re too close to the writing, it’s easy to overlook things that an outside professional can identify. Even friends who are editors may not be able to provide you with the objective perspective necessary.

Thesis Editor has a team of expert editors ready to help you get to where you need to be. We offer a range of services, including consultation, multiple levels of editing, and formatting to assist you with whatever your project might be. Contact us today to learn more!

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I wish to thank Thesis Editor Ltd and its staff for providing editorial and formatting services in support of finalising my doctoral thesis. These services were provided consistent with an agreed upon scope of work and timeframe. The quality of the work was excellent and the attention to detail was much appreciated. Without hesitation, I recommend anyone seeking support with their academic manuscript or other types of work products that require editorial review and formatting to speak with Dawn Leach, Director of Operations, Thesis Editor Ltd. I found Dawn to be very responsive and extremely helpful.

- Kevin G. Rattue , University of Oxford, January 2021

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