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  • Writer's pictureCatie Phares

10 things academics should know right now

I’ve talked before about how, unfortunately, only a small percentage of my clients feel comfortable disclosing that they use my services. While this stigma against editorial help saddens me (and is hopefully lessening over time), I get it. Academia has a way of making almost everyone fear that they might be the stupidest person in the room/class/conference/department and should go to great lengths to hide their vulnerabilities. So real quick, with the hope of making someone out there feel a lot better, I wanted to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes of what I see… with 10 things that I think you should know if you’re an academic.

  1. Loads of your colleagues are using editors like me—even (especially) the ones who seem like they don’t need an editor. It hit me recently that editors are to academics what plastic surgeons are to celebrities (not least because if we’ve done our job properly, no one will even know we were there!).

  2. Most of the papers I edit and see accepted at top journals have a journey of at least 4–5 years behind them. Some have been in development for a decade or more. Getting published in a top journal takes marathon, not sprint, energy; pace yourself to avoid burnout. 

  3. Outside help is more necessary than ever to a successful academic career. Many clients have told me they are noticing an increasingly competitive academic landscape. The scarcity of jobs and resources seems to be creating a harsher and less collegial atmosphere, increasing the value of outside help with the most important aspects of your work (like your writing). Don’t be afraid to lean on that help whenever you need it. 

  4. Academia isn’t designed for well-rounded human beings. It’s a system that doesn’t allow for the emotions, responsibilities (parenting/caregiving in particular, which disproportionately affects female academics), struggles, and setbacks that almost everyone deals with at some point. Remember that before you chastise yourself for what you “should” have accomplished by now. 

  5. There’s absolutely no harm in using AI when it’s the best tool for the job (here’s a handy guide to when that might be). But there’s plenty of harm in using it when your own voice and thinking are what’s on display. Resist outsourcing those two critical things to AI and you’ll instantly stand head and shoulders above the growing crowd of unremarkable writers leaning on it.

  6. I am never judging you or your writing abilities (and no editor should be). All those “silently judging your grammar” pins, mugs, tshirts, and other tat that a few editors seem to find so amusing just… gross me out, frankly. After 15 years of editing in this field, I’ve seen it all: half-finished drafts with no real thesis, plagiarized work, AI-generated work, tearful apologies—things that clients say they’d be “embarrassed” for anyone else to see. All I can say is, they picked the right spot to make a mistake because it’s my literal job to catch and help resolve mistakes before they do any real damage; this is how we all learn and improve. No shame, no judgment. 

  7. And relatedly, there is no single correct and codified way to use English, and thus, any confusion you may feel about which wording or spelling to use is completely normal. The best editors will align your writing with your desired result, not a certain style manual per se (unless of course that’s part of getting the intended result, as it often is).

  8. Almost every academic feels like a fraud at some point. Having worked with some seriously accomplished individuals over the years, I’ve come to realize that no one is entirely safe from the poisonous doubt that they’re secretly unworthy of all their achievements. Please know that this doubt is ultimately a perversely protective brain mechanism that most humans share, never a reliable source of information; pay it no mind.

  9. I’m not just your editor, I’m your career ally. Improving academic writing isn’t my main goal. Helping you reach your goals, via improved academic writing, is my main goal. That difference in focus might seem small, but to me it’s everything. It’s why the vast majority of CS Phares clients have been with us for several years and why I continue to do this work today. My team and I are honored to serve you not just as editors, but as deeply invested collaborators in your ongoing success.

  10. No one else on earth thinks or writes exactly like you do, on the same subjects that you do, which means we need your unique voice and ideas. So take the time and rest you need to bring sustained energy to the fight to be heard. You’ve got this!

-Catie Phares


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