heads, heads, heads

Is this my publishing life or Rosencranz & Guildenstern Are Dead?

Editing theses are not like editing other things. I’ve done a lot of trade nonfiction and journal articles, but this is my first thesis. What have I learned?

Formatting is King

When they say 1 1/2″ margins, you better triple-check your right margin. You want your client to ruin his career because one sleep-deprived copyeditor couldn’t manage to measure the margins correctly? Nope. Bad for business. You have to channel your inner OCD carpenter. How many times does a carpenter measure window openings so you don’t have huge embarrassing gaps between the frame and the wall? That’s how many times you need to check too.

Language…Not so Much

It’s not really their faults. Graduate students are trained to write in convoluted sentences. They have to justify everything, define all their terms, refer to past theorists, and address the opposition, usually all in one sentence. If they are too direct, their advisers will tell them they are not trying hard enough. Grit your teeth and let it go.

They Don’t Want to Know

The thesis is the document for which graduate students have thrown themselves into financial ruin. So have some pity. Fix their serial commas, citations, and other minor tics without telling them about it. They are too busy stockpiling ramen for their next three years on the job market to care. And don’t use jargon—they don’t care about what an A head and a B head are. Just format them quickly and let the poor Ph.D. candidate go back to drinking and plotting about how not to end up in her mother’s basement.


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