Can you recommend solutions for a dissertation needing copy editing?

Date: February 2019


Dear Deans,

I have recently defended my dissertation as a non-native English speaker. One of my committee’s recommendations for revisions is to work with a professional copy editor toward a polished final draft.

As you can imagine I was excited by the idea of working toward a final version of that chunky baby of mine, but checking on a few copy-editors’ fees I am now discouraged. I hear about amounts that reach up to a couple of thousand dollars given the word count. Needless to say this is money that I don’t have and that I am already trying to save to go back home after I file.

My chair and I have discussed options, including asking English-speaking friends a favor in exchange of my native language services. Unfortunately this doesn’t work, because all my grad friends are already more than busy with their own attempts to finish up in time. It would feel quite inappropriate to add labor. The English Language Support Office (ELSO), which I have greatly benefited from over my years at Cornell, can also only review a few pages at a time, and doesn’t have the resources to take care of such a vast operation.

Does the grad school offer funding opportunities for non-native speakers? Or can you recommend any other solutions or avenues to look into?

Many thanks in advance.


Purveyor of Semi-Polished Prose


Dear “Purveyor of Semi-Polished Prose”,

Unfortunately, the Graduate School does not have funding for editing services although we actively partner with ELSO as they provide other services to students who are not native speakers of English. You might explore whether it would be helpful to hire an editor to work on a small section of your dissertation, perhaps 20 pages, to see if there are patterns of corrections that you could then continue on your own. A friend or colleague might also be able to provide this same assistance (edit a small section of your document) with the hope that it helps you flag certain issues for systematic correction. Here are a few links that might be helpful, although none directly offer grants to cover editing costs. 

I’ll add a note of caution, as well. While it’s usually acceptable to have assistance with proofreading and basic editing, check with your special committee to understand what would be constitute excessive outside assistance. The dissertation, after all, is expected to be your own work! 



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration