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Writing Basics

Interpreting LetPub Language Editors’ Comments


Nathan Boutin, Associate Editor

October 2020

It can be daunting to receive feedback from a native English speaker. Our goal at LetPub is to make that process as easy as possible. Our language editors often leave detailed comments, and you may need some help interpreting them. We will analyze some common editorial comments below, but it is crucial to first understand the purpose of language editing. This will give you an idea of what changes to expect in your manuscript.

What is language editing?

Language editing is a service that ensures a document is free from grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and misspellings. Language editing also involves improving sentence structure and clarity, as well as suggesting ways to refine the flow of the writing. A language editor will also correct inconsistencies, eliminate non-standard language use, and comment on potentially misleading or confusing statements.

Language editing, sometimes called copyediting, does not involve substantive editing, which aims to enhance the overall argument, design, and quality of the science presented. While language editing services typically do not cover these areas, other editorial services, such as scientific editing, will accomplish these tasks.

Now that you understand the scope of language editing, here is a brief summary of typical comments you will see from our language editors and what they mean for you.

“Please ensure that this change retains intended meaning.”
The editor has changed the text, but the original meaning was not clear. Please carefully check that the change has not altered your meaning when you see this comment.

“This sentence is not clear. Do you mean X? Please clarify.”
This means that the editor could not understand the sentence as it was written. Our editors will often suggest an alternative phrasing for you based on what they understand. If what they have written is correct, please use it to replace the sentence in your manuscript. Otherwise, please do your best to make the meaning clear. In this case, it is recommended that you send the project back to us for a follow-up edit.

“It is not clear what X means in this context. Please provide an explanation.”
This is often written when a common English word appears in a phrase that is not typically used in English. It does not mean the word is spelled incorrectly or not the right word, just that it is being used in an unusual way (sometimes this is specific to a particular field).

“You have written this as X here but as Y elsewhere in the text. Please choose one format and use it consistently throughout the manuscript.”
Because writing terms and abbreviations consistently is so important for scientific manuscripts, our editors will often point out inconsistencies. Please make sure you fix these inconsistencies before submitting your manuscript to reduce confusion and increase the likelihood of publication.

“Your target journal’s guidelines state X. Please make sure you follow their guidelines.”
If you see this, the editor has checked the journal’s guidelines and is letting you know that your manuscript does not follow them in its current form. Therefore, you should review the guidelines carefully and make sure your manuscript follows them before submitting your manuscript.

“This symbol appears as a box on my computer. Please ensure that the symbols are displayed correctly in the version you submit to the journal.”
This means that a symbol, usually in an equation, is not displaying correctly on the editor’s computer. You might consider protecting your document against formatting changes in Word before submitting it to the journal. If your manuscript contains many equations, consider using LaTeX in Overleaf. LetPub can edit documents in Overleaf.

“This sentence was redundant. Therefore, it has been deleted.”
The editor has determined that a sentence contains information that has been stated earlier in the document (usually in the same section). Some editors will delete it and leave a comment; others will point out that information has been repeated and let you decide whether to remove it or not. Please carefully review the change.

Instructive comments. Examples: “This noun is singular, so the verb should also be singular.” / “Use an en dash for ranges.” / “When discussing results, the past tense is typically used.”

These comments come in many variations and are meant to clarify why certain changes have been made. They also serve to increase your knowledge of the English language, which can help you better communicate your ideas.

Please use this guide whenever you need help interpreting our language editors’ comments. If you need additional help, our client managers are always willing to offer assistance. Thank you for choosing Accdon/LetPub!

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