Ethics of Editing?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2004
Ethics of Editing?
Mon, 04-12-2010 - 9:32pm

Dear Everyone,

Can I ask for your input on an issue that's bugging me?

I'm a freelance editor. I do most of my work via the internet. In the past I've had a few clients who were university students looking for proofreading help on a dissertation or thesis--basically an edit for punctuation, spelling, and to make sure their formatting conformed to whichever style their department required.

Well, in the past 2 weeks I've been contacted by 3 students wanting to hire me to work on their MA theses. They want the proofreading, but they're also asking for "substantive" editing--that is, significant restructuring/rewriting to make their prose smooother, more precise, and more persuasive.

I'm wondering if it's ethical for me to take this kind of job. After all, producing one's own thesis/dissertation is one of the requirements for an advanced degree. When I was a grad student it never would have occurred to me to ask for outside help. If I take on these clients, am I helping them to cheat?

Sorry this is so long. I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Elizabeth Shipley Editing Services

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Tue, 04-13-2010 - 2:04pm

Welcome to The Writing Life, Elizabeth!

The title of your post grabbed me. As an on-and-off proofreader and copyeditor, I had to know your ethics question. You have the same reservations I would have in the same situation which is why I have avoided that situation (and limited my editing income severely in the process).

You offer to work with your academic clients on your website. You don't offer to do the