My years of professional experience in rhetoric, persuasive writing, and storytelling are what sets my academic editing abilities apart. It may only take a few days to become functionally fluent in a new subject matter, but it takes years to master the craft of great writing.
I love translating academic policy and research into captivating stories. As a special editor for NORC at the University of Chicago I’ve worked on research into Alzheimer’s preparedness, loneliness and social determinants of health in aging populations, health data linkage, and Medicare research – just to name a few examples. My approach always comes down to asking the right questions and listening closely for the right answers.
You need a someone with the rigor and aptitude to make your research matter. You’re the expert researcher–let me be the expert storyteller.
Multiple research projects
Dr. David Wheatcroft, Evolutionary Biology
Dr. Jalene Montagne, Ecology
Dr. Richard Morrel, Education
Dr. Oscar Chavez, English
Dr. John Bechara, Organizational Studies
Dr. Richard Morrel, Education
Dr. David Ramadan, Education
I was asked to evaluate and rework a report authored by a senior researcher at Nonprofit [identity withheld] and written for a non-academic audience.
Academic prose is famously dull. Latinate constructions, inverted syntax, long appositives, and foreign jargon can frustrate the best readers. Though it prevails, bad academic prose routinely fails at its basic goal: to educate and persuade.
Working at the sentence level, I reframed the report around a protagonist that the audience would care about most: older adults. This gave the piece a stronger focus, more concise language, and better verbs to drive the research as a story and an argument.
Instead of introducing definitions (a commonplace in the sciences), I begin by situating the reader with thematic language. Words like “struggle,” “social lives” and “older” present both a character and a problem. Then I turn to “character.” I change the subject of the first two sentences from abstracted categories like “report,” “social health,” and “loneliness” into one consistent character: adults. Firstly, readers usually struggle to track multiple characters in the same paragraph. Secondly, readers at the AARP Foundation will likely care more about adults rather than concepts like social health.
I also carefully turn neutral words into active ones. The original draft says that older adults are dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of their relationships. To make things more compelling I replace “quantity” with what it actually insinuates (“they wither”) and “quality” with “isolated and alone”–words that describe quality. Just like strong characters, strong verbs add active drama and interest.
Notice that I focus on adding more obvious problem language to show that while this topic is very important, no one has yet fixed the data.
Now I drive the problem home. The original language uses weak intransitive verbs. By adding a subject (“research”) I’ve also identified a bad guy to be vanquished. It’s bad research that has “overlooked” this issue. That’s why you need good research.
Let’s skip ahead to the next paragraph:
Again, I do some character work. The report is fundamentally about lonely older adults. So either adults or loneliness must star in the drama. I also add some important signposts. “For example” is a powerfully appreciated phrase for weary eyes. Readers prefer scenes and stories to concepts and abstractions. I also made sure to add coordinating words like “socially,” “physically,” and “finally” to settle readers into a list and give them thematic language with which to better categorize the content.
The moral of the story here? Readers always need ample help. Simple markers like “four aspects matter” prepare readers for a list. In the last sentence, I again add stronger descriptive language, changing “increases the likelihood” to “better at accurately.” Don’t bury the lede. If your work is doing something well, make sure your readers know.
Finally, let’s look at the concluding paragraph:
By turning “set future research” into “help researchers” I’ve returned living people (and important audiences) to the sentence. This is important. The final line of the last paragraph of the summary is the most expensive real estate in the entire document. Readers will look here for the most compelling and memorable point. I must ensure that readers know that this report will help researchers, policy makers, and service agencies. These groups, of course, are those who have the most to gain.
I hope that this primer has helped give you a window into my method. While much of this might come across as tedious, my point is to show that this kind of highly technical editing and revision is neither magic nor impossible. It is, I hope to have shown, merely another form of strategic design.
Want to know more? Let’s talk.