Robert Izzard's Pages of Astronomical Happiness

  Teaching • Editing
I often receive requests, mostly from Masters students, to proofread/edit their work. Usually such requests arrive one or two days before the student has to hand in the work. This is not a practical working timetable. I am extremely busy at the best of times, so extra work such as proofreading comes out of my sleeping time. This is not good! Reading a Masters thesis (properly!) is easily 12 hours of work, i.e. about two full working days. Are you paying for those hours?

To avoid pain all round I have a set of rules which you must follow if you want your work proofread:

  1. You must attend, or have attended previously, my Scientific Writing class or have used a copy of the excellent Eloquent Science by David Schultz. This applies to students, postdocs and staff.
  2. You must have already carefully read and corrected the text yourself and have it proofread (and corrected!) by your supervisor.
  3. Try your colleagues first. I am a last resort.
  4. Allow plenty of time. In the case of a Masters thesis, a month is ideal, three weeks is possible. Any shorter and I will just say no.
  5. I may still say no. I may just be too busy.
  6. Text given to me which is not checked for spelling errors, has unlabelled graphs, single-sentence paragraphs, equations with undefined symbols, undefined acronyms etc. will simply be returned. There is no excuse for such sloppiness!
  7. Promise not to cry at the red ink. I will use red and it does look like blood.
  8. I do not provide Vaseline although it has been suggested that I should.
If I agree to read your document, note the following:
  1. It should be in 12-point serif font, double spaced, using most of the page (aim for 3cm margins). I need the space to mark changes.
  2. You don't know how to do this in LaTeX? Use LyX.
  3. You do know how to do this in LaTeX? Use LyX.
  4. Please do not ask me to read your whole dissertation! Give me a page or two to start with. You will learn from this, then you can edit the rest of your document yourself.
  5. I will say no if the deadline is too soon!
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