Academic
Editing.

About


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. 

You're the expert researcher–let me be the expert storyteller.

Education

Stanford University B.A.

English with Honors, Phi Beta Kappa

University of Chicago, Ph.D.

English Language and Literature

Past Clients

University of Stockholm

Dr. David Wheatcroft, Evolutionary Biology

DePaul University

Dr. Jalene Montagne, Ecology

Tilburg University

Dr. John Bechara, Organizational Studies

Northwestern University

Dr. Richard Morrel, Education

University of Chicago

Dr. Oscar Chavez, English

Experience

Lector, University of Chicago

Little Red School House (writing center), Advanced Professional and Graduate Writing

Special Projects Editor, NORC

Freelance work on grants, policy memos, articles, and presentations in the social sciences and public health

Scroll down to see how I work.


Case
Study

NONPROFIT & The Federal Government

Academic writing doesn't have to be exhausting.

Problem:

Academic editing is exhausting.

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. 

analysis:

Tell a story with compelling characters.

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.

Solution:

Readers often care more about people than about concepts.

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.

Ex.
#1

Original

This report examines the social health of older adults in the United States. Social health is here defined as satisfaction and contentment with one’s social life. Its opposite, loneliness, is defined as dissatisfaction with the quantity or quality of one’s social relationships.

My Revision

In the United States, adults often struggle to find fulfillment in their social lives as they grow older. While some older adults have found the secret to fostering healthy, meaningful bonds, many others find that their social relationships wither as they become increasingly isolated and alone.

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.

Ex.
#2

Original

Loneliness, in addition to making people’s lives miserable, has been associated with increased mortality and a range of adverse physiological and health outcomes that are prevalent and costly in older age. The scope of the problem is related to the prevalence of loneliness in older adults in the USA, and existing estimates of prevalence are dated.

My Revision

For these adults, loneliness is not only emotionally unhealthy but physiologically unhealthy too. Loneliness can lead to increased mortality and a range of adverse health outcomes that are both prevalent and costly. Though the consequences of loneliness may afflict millions of older adults, current estimates about the prevalence of loneliness remain outdated.

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.

 

Ex.
#3

Original

Moreover, lonely older adults have been inadequately characterized, and segments of the current older adult population that are at high risk for loneliness have not been identified. This report addresses these issues.

My Revision

Moreover, past research has both inadequately characterized lonely older adults while also overlooking important segments of the current older adult population that are at high risk for loneliness. This report on social health addresses these crucial issues.

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:

Ex.
#4

Original

Characteristics that differ between the socially healthy and unhealthy groups included socioeconomic and demographic characteristics as well as health, social engagement, social network characteristics, and qualities of relationships. Relative to the socially healthy group, the lonely group has lower household income; less wealth; is less likely to be married; and lives alone. The lonely group also has poorer self-rated health; more physical limitations in carrying out the activities of daily living; fewer friends; and less frequently socializes, volunteers, attends church, and participates in organized groups.

My Revision

Loneliness always stems from a variety of characteristics: from a respondent’s socioeconomic and demographic background to their health, social engagement, social network characteristics, and the quality of their relationships. For example, relative to the socially healthy sample group, the lonely group possessed less wealth and less household income. Physically, they rated their health poorer than their socially healthy peers, and they reported more limitations when carrying out the activities of daily living. Socially, they less frequently socialized, volunteered, attended church, and participated in other organized groups. The lonely group reported having fewer friends, were less likely to be married, and were more likely to live alone. 

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.

Let’s continue: 

Ex.
#5

Original

Data about the older population in general can be used to identify which individuals may be at particular risk for loneliness. In this nationally representative sample of older adults, factors that uniquely identified segments of the population that are at higher risk for loneliness include not having a spouse or partner, socializing less frequently, having fewer friends, and experiencing greater strain in family relationships. Having information on these four aspects of older adults’ lives significantly increases the likelihood that individuals can be identified as lonely or socially healthy.

My Revision

In addition to describing loneliness, the data can also be used to identify which older adults are particularly at risk for loneliness. For uniquely identified segments of the population four aspects matter when trying to measure whether an individual is at a higher risk for loneliness: if they do not have a spouse or partner, if they socialize less frequently, if they have fewer friends, and if they experience greater strain in family relationships. By collecting information on these four aspects of social health, this data becomes much better at accurately identifying which older adults are lonely or socially healthy.

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:

Ex.
#6

Original

In sum, although most older adults in the USA are socially healthy and seemingly resilient to the losses that come with aging, a sizeable portion of this population feels lonely. Data identified segments of the population that may be at particularly high risk of loneliness. This information may be of use to set directions for future research, target policies, and assist service agencies to reduce the burden of loneliness in a growing older adult population.

My Revision

In sum, though many older Americans are socially healthy and seemingly resilient to the losses that come with aging, a sizable portion of this population feels lonely. The data in this report identified segments of the population that may be at particularly high risk of loneliness. This information should help researchers in devising more insightful studies, policy makers advocate for more targeted programs, and service agencies reduce the burden of loneliness in a growing older adult population

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.

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