college application

The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

We interview Daina Sparling, an editor and proofreader at PFAU Academic Writing, about something students often take for granted – editing! Good writers know that the first draft is never going to be their best work. They need to put aside time to revise, edit, and proofread their work. The best writers have colleagues or professionals to provide them with insights on their work and to fix any issues. Like all art, writing takes multiple drafts to reach a level of greatness.

Color headshot 300x200 The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

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Daina has a Psychology degree from the University of Alberta, and several years experience working as a Research Assistant for the Department of Medicine, Division of Studies at the University of Alberta. While at the university she collaborated with other academics in the creation, editing, and statistical analysis of examinations used in the medical school. Diana also has over three years of experience editing graduate-level dissertations and publications with PFAU Academic Writing. In her free time, Daina enjoys travel, beekeeping, and camping with her husband and two children.

What is the value of receiving editing support?

It is important to have somebody look your work over because we do not see our own faults very well. For example, if I studied abroad I would absolutely ask somebody, who is a native speaker, to look at my work because different languages have different expectations and structures. The real value is that you not only end up with a more polished version of your written work by hiring an editor, but you also learn from them how to become a better writer. For example, if there are common errors that I see in the work, I will point them out to client so that they can avoid those errors in the future. In addition, the comments made on the draft related to content or questions asked about what the writer intends to say, helps the writer to become more clear in their ideas and expression as they continue through the writing process. It is also beneficial to have the help of an editor, who has experience in writing and working with different kinds of text so that they can teach you how to adapt your work to appeal to different audiences. Writing is just another medium through which to communicate your ideas. If you can work with someone who will help you to improve those communication skills, then you have more opportunities and avenues through which to share your research and thoughts.

What skills and knowledge do you think good editors have?

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First, I think that whatever language you are using to write your essay or dissertation, it is always beneficial to find an editor who is a native language speaker, especially for international students. I think it is a helpful added step to have another pair of eyes to look at your work.


Second, a good editor is someone with a strong set of technical writing skills, such as: grammar, punctuation, spelling, structure, format, citation styles, etc. You want to be able to trust that they will recognize and fix your mistakes.

Third, and possibly most importantly, a good editor should also be able to figure out what is the person actually getting at. In other words, what does the writer intend to say. A good editor does not change the writer’s meaning, but enhances it. I think good editors tend to be empathetic. We can get a sense of the person through their writing and adapt it in a way that is suitable for them, as opposed to having some sort of formula. I think a good editor needs to be able to work together to accomplish the goal of the client. I do not want that client’s work to sound like my own, but rather the best version of their words. As a result, a good editor will be able to suss that out and decide what is the actual content that this person is trying to convey.

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Tell us a bit about your own process. How do you edit a paper?

The first thing that I do is just take a quick scan through the work to see what is it about how long it is. Then, I will go back to the original project instructions. It is always really helpful to be given a copy of any assignment or submission instructions to ensure that all the requirements have been fulfilled. If your writing submission does not have the right components, it is not going to help you even if it is edited perfectly. Then, I will read through the paper looking for structural issues, content issues, and clarity. At this point, I will suggest broad sweeping revisions where relevant. Then, I will take a second look reviewing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. I usually let it sit for a day, and then do a final read to make sure that I haven’t missed any mistakes.

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What are some common mistakes that you often see in the essays that you edit?

The first one that is absolutely glaring for me is the tense. It is necessary to make a determination and decide whether you are in the present, past, or future before writing down 40 or 50 pages of work into a document. Which tense people should use is going to be dependent on what they are writing. A paper talking about literature may use a different tense from a personal response essay. There is nothing more difficult than editing for 10 or 20 hours and having to go back and forth wondering what the author is talking about because they switched from present tense to past tense in the middle of a paragraph.

The second common mistake is acronyms. Students should make sure that they have spelled out the full name of any acronyms they use in the essay, and placed the acronym in brackets after the full them. Only after that, can you use the acronym consistently throughout your essay. You cannot assume that people will know what you are talking about, for example, what BMJ stands for. Do you know? I still don’t.

The third thing would be capitalization, such as the capitalization of names and organizations. People often get proper nouns and common nouns mixed up. For example, China and china mean two different things when you change the capitalization in the word. You need to check whether or not the technical terms that you are using need to be capitalized or not. The internet is your best friend for checking this out. This is another one of those errors that can be missed easily, but to a technical reader or an employer, it is a big problem if they see that their organization is not capitalized.

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Resources Recommendation

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Style Guide (APA, MLA, Chicago)

Purdue OWL

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Thank you, Daina, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

University Applications 101: Interview with Lisa Pfau

We interview Lisa Pfau, founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writing, about applying for university or college from high school, a critical step in many students’ lives. It is important to be fully prepared by exploring the programs and/or schools of interests, admission requirements, and application processes as there are different requirements. Extensive research and a solid plan are necessary to succeed in the application process.  

DSC05821 edited 300x300 University Applications 101: Interview with Lisa Pfau

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As you may know, I have over 20 years of experience helping students with essay writing, application support and career development. One of my favorite things is getting to know students and helping them to develop their application essays.

What do you suggest students look for when picking a program or school?

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Every year, and this still is the case, Maclean’s magazine publishes a university ranking edition. The magazine tells you all the universities in Canada, sometimes colleges, and their rankings. The magazine also ranks them by graduate school, medical school, law school and undergraduate program.

I was a pretty good student, so I wanted to go to one of the top 10 schools in Canada. The top school for Bachelor of Arts in Canada is Mount Allison University. But that’s all the way in the Maritimes, and that was too far from home for me. So eventually, I chose the University of Alberta, which at the time was ranked fifth. So if you’re a good student, you might want to go to a top school and see how they are ranked.

I would also consider your area of interest or study. You can choose the schools with reputable programs of your interest, which may not be the overall top school, but top in that field. For example, later on in life, I studied Chinese Politics. In Canada, there are really two or three universities that specialize in that, the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto were my top choices.

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What kind of timeline should students expect?

I think the post-secondary application is something you should really start thinking about in Grade 11. When you apply, the schools are not going to have all of your Grade 12 marks. The schools will look at your Grade 11 marks and courses. Meeting course prerequisites is important as it will impact your acceptance. For example, Engineering has certain Math and Science prerequisites, and you should be able to show on your transcript that you are doing those courses when you apply. The other thing is to think about grades. They’re mostly going to see your Grade 11 marks and part of your Grade 12 marks. It is important to start thinking about your grades and investing and making your grades stronger as soon as you enter high school. Find out what the requirements are for your program early on, so that you plan those last two years of high school appropriately and make sure to get all those prerequisites to get into the programs you want.

Most people don’t know this, but the grade that every school will look at, no matter what you study, is your English grade, not English language, but English literature. A lot of times people may think that they do not need English for their programs of study, but schools will look at your English grades regardless. They know as a professional, you have to be a good communicator no matter your field of study.

In addition, it is time-consuming to choose the right university. Things such as booking those appointments with your guidance counselor to find out about the application process, researching schools, and planning visits all take time. If you want to apply for scholarships or student loans, you need to account for that time as well. If your wait until the last minute, you risk doing a sloppy application and missing out on your dream program.

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What advice do you have for high school students transitioning to post-secondary school?

Whether you are a Canadian student or an international student, going to university is a big transition because you are no longer living at home. A lot of students are totally on their own. And of course, university and high school are very different from each other in the way that they’re structured. In universities, you can get lost in the crowd and nobody cares about you. I mean, if you take the time to talk to your professors, and they get to know you, of course, they care about you. However, the classes are so much bigger, so unless you take the initiative, nobody is going to notice if you skipped class. Whereas in high school, instructors or administrators are going to call your parents, check attendance, and track progress. Once you get into university, you are on your own, and you need to be responsible. So I think that’s a big change.

In this respect, going through the application process and thinking about what you want for your future actually can help to prepare you a bit for the new challenges of university itself. It’s a stressful process with tight deadlines somewhat similar to what the first year of assignments and exams feels like to new students.

I think the best thing someone told me is that it is gonna be a big transition and expect that your grades will drop by 20%. I had that impression already in my mind, so I knew university is gonna be very different from high school and it is going to be harder. As a result, I knew that even if I don’t do as well as before in the beginning, that is normal and it is actually part of the process and I can learn from that and improve. I think having a positive growth mindset is really valuable because it can be a big shock to the system.

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Resources Recommendation

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Maclean’s Magazine

Ontario Universities Info

Application Coaching at PFAU

Guide to Universities in Canada

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Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

University Applications 101: Podcast Episode Live!
University Application 1 300x295 University Applications 101: Podcast Episode Live!

 We interview Lisa Pfau, founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writing about applying for university or college from high school, a critical step in many students’ lives. It is important to be fully prepared by exploring the programs and/or schools of interests, admission requirements, and application processes as there are different requirements. Extensive research and a solid plan are necessary to succeed in the application process.  

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

How to start the application process

Suggestions for picking a school or program

What to do after receiving the letter of acceptance

Advice for the transition from high school to post-secondary studies

Advice for International Students

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.