Presenter: Sally Hofmeyr


We are all familiar with stodgy, unclear, difficult-to-read academic writing. Many authors seem to think they have to use the longest words and the wordiest sentences possible to sound professional and knowledgeable – but do they? In this presentation, I will demonstrate how to apply Plain Language principles when editing congested academic sentences to render them simpler and clearer – which is, incidentally, how the best academic authors write and is therefore far more convincing and professional sounding than the traditional turgid style.

Making this kind of intervention (and educating your clients along the way by doing so) is becoming increasingly important. Trust in science and academia is at an all-time low, and impenetrable academic writing does nothing to help that situation. It is crucial, therefore, for editors to help to make academic writing as clear and accessible as possible. However, that does not mean doing away with jargon! Technical terms usually carry very specific meanings, so they must be treated with caution and sensitivity.

I will discuss the relevant Plain Language principles and show how they can be applied in a range of contexts while taking care to preserve the author’s meaning precisely. This talk will be most relevant to editors of non-examinable academic texts, since the kinds of interventions I will be discussing are beyond the editor’s remit when working on theses and dissertations.


Sally Hofmeyr

Sally is an ornithologist with a passion for good writing. She loves to bring out the best in both academic texts and other editors. At Uni-edit (the editing company she freelances for) and PEG she helps editors to hone their skills and appreciate the nuances of crystal-clear writing. She learned the essentials of good academic writing from her PhD supervisor, though he probably never imagined he was setting her up for a career in editing! To keep in touch with the wonderful and frustrating world of academia, she continues to dabble in ornithological fieldwork, escaping her desk from time to time to do bird counts, monitor penguins and harass red-winged starlings. Sally is a PEG Accredited Text Editor.

Sally Hofmeyr