Thursday 31 March 2022

The Crux of Reducing Similarity

Over the years, I've been contacted a dozen of times by clients who wanted me to reduce the similarity score of their academic research papers or theses. 

Although reducing similarity involves paraphrasing and falls within my scope as a line editor, I have to turn down certain projects. If the text in question is a highly scientific text I have to pass. This is because scientific texts (natural sciences, ICT, etc) contain too many highly technical terms that do not have synonyms. Most sentences are replete with terms that are BY DEFINITION not replaceable. Also, often the wording is already highly standardised and concise, which leaves me no room to paraphrase. 

When I try to explain this to my clients, they often fail to see the logic here and insist on me trying, which is a huge waste of their and my valuable time. I do understand the pressure faced by students who must submit their work and are confronted with a rigid system (Turnitin, etc) that cannot be argued with and offers no room for negotiation and compromise. In my opinion, such plagiarism software is only useful if it is used at the discretion of the thesis supervisors, but not as a mandatory hurdle at department and faculty level. 

However, this problem of reducing the similarity score to below 20 percent is solvable in other subject areas such as history, business, economics, education, philosophy, and the like. Although the professional level of these texts is equally demanding, their used terminology leaves more room for paraphrasing, and many terms can indeed be replaced.

Another challenge for me as the line editor is to change the syntax structure of each sentence, which is much easier to do when the sentences are rich and varied. I am able to change from active to passive voice, leave small details out or add them according to the context, and can thus change the individual building blocks and order of elements in a sentence enough to avoid similarity without losing the meaning. 

In a recent project I was able to reduce the similarity score from 43 percent to 10 percent, and from 64 percent to 16 percent. I managed to reduce the third chapter from 50 percent to 35 percent, but then hit a wall because the last chapter contained too many elements taken from previous studies that could not be replaced and had to be left as they were (measurement items, calculations, etc). 

In short, you can expect your editor to resolve this pesky issue of similarity, but bear in mind that there ARE limits to this kind of work. Your text has to allow paraphrasing and variation; if it is too scientific and formulated you will have to remove some of your sourced material...

Monday 28 March 2022

Recent Projects

Recent proofreading and copyediting projects

Research articles, theses, and PhD dissertations in Business Studies, Economics, ICT, Psychology, Education, Law, History, and Islamic Studies


From Hard Rock to Hadrah: Music and Youth Sufism in Contemporary Indonesia, research article commissioned by Teosofia Journal of Islamic Mysticism 9:2, 17 pages

Weberian Sociology and Portrait of Contemporary Sufism Studies, research article commissioned by Teosofia Journal of Islamic Mysticism 9:2, 31 pages

Bahrul Lahut Manuscripts in East Java: Study of Philology and Reconstruction of Tarekat Networks, research article commissioned by Teosofia Journal of Islamic Mysticism 9:2, 33 pages

Tuhfah al-Mursalah ila Ruh al-Nabiy as the Source of the Doctrine of the Seven Grades of Being in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, research article commissioned by Teosofia Journal 9:2, 22 pages  

Suicide Prevention from an Islamic Perspective, directed research commissioned by Nur Aliya, Education, IIUM (Malaysia), 20 pages

Learn How to Make More Money with Soccer Agency, blog article commissioned by Thevanai Gnantham, 4 pages

How to Find the Best Clear Aligner in 2022, blog article commissioned by Felicia Yi, 5 pages

Learning Motivation and Psychological Needs Among Engineering Students in Malaysia, MA thesis commissioned by Muhammad Salehuddin, Education, IIUM (Malaysia), 70 pages

Chapter 2 of PhD thesis on TL in Arabic supplementary schools in the UK commissioned by Heba Kamal, Brunel University London (UK), 26 pages

Sufism as the Core of Islam: A Review of Junayd of Baghdad’s System of Tasawwuf, research article commissioned by Teosofia Journal of Islamic Mysticism (Indonesia), 32 pages

The Contested Kutub al-Mu’tabara of Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia: Reception, Controversy and Challenges, research article commissioned by Claudia Seise, Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), 40 pages

Sports Aggression and Injury: Incorporating the Criminal Justice System in the Sports Industry, research article commissioned by Jady Zaidi Hassim, Law, UKM (Malaysia)29 pages

Impact of Content, Personality, and Trustworthiness of Social Media Influencers on Consumer Purchase Intention in Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Industry, PhD thesis commissioned by Kholod Aggad, Azman Hashim International Business School, UTM (Malaysia), 112 pages

ESL Teachers’ and Learners’ Beliefs towards Learner Autonomy in English Speaking: A Case Study in Bangladesh, PhD thesis commissioned by Mariam Jameela, Education, IIUM (Malaysia), 345 pages

  Trustworthiness-Aware Spatial Task Allocation using A Fuzzy-based Trust and Reputation System Approach, research article (partial) commissioned by Md Mujibur Rahman, ICT, UKM (Malaysia), 7 pages

Organizational Culture, Employee Commitment, and Strategic Leadership in Adopting SHRM Practices in the Banking Sector of Saudi Arabia, PhD thesis commissioned by Nadra F Tawfig, University of Business and Technology (Saudi Arabia), 131 pages

5 Good Practices of Reliable Children’s Dentists, blog article commissioned by Felicia Yi, 3 pages

How to Fight Teeth Bugs, blog article commissioned by Felicia Yi, 3 pages

Revisiting the Impact of Fragility Indices on Economic Growth: New Insights into Sub-Saharan Africa, MA thesis commissioned by John O. Sekunmade, Economics and Finance, Istanbul Gelisim University (Turkey), 63 pages

Strategic Orientation, Organizational Ambidexterity, and Their Effect on Business Performance of Hotels in Saudi Arabia, PhD thesis commissioned by Yousef I Shugdar, Azman Hashim International Business School, UTM (Malaysia), 68 pages


Friday 10 December 2021

V. Foreign Terminology 2

If your text contains a lot of foreign terminology, you should make sure that it is not cluttered with too many inverted commas. Also, the flow will be affected if your readers have to constantly switch from one script to another. 

Best practice is to

a) use uppercase only for proper names; otherwise use lowercase 

b) highlight foreign words in italics (not "...")

c) transliterate foreign script (e.g., Arabic)

The example below both contain a lot of Arabic and Indonesian terminology and cited text. As you can see, the use of Arabic script does not aid the flow and is indeed completely unnecessary.

 [Original copy]

In addition, they also translate words that have no equivalent words and or words that have similar meanings in Banyumasan Javanese language –such as “Taqwa” and “Kafir”, which are translated in one sentence; the word "تتقون" (Q.2:21) is translated as "semarah maring gusti Allah" and the word "كفروا" (Q.2:6) translated by "wong-wong Kapir" using "P" typical of Banyumasan Javanese Language added with the word "mbangkang". Some other examples of translation on cultural terms is carried out on a fragment of verses which read "أزواaج مطهرة" (Q.2:25) translated "bojo-bojo sek thing-thing", "الصلاة" translated "sembahyang" and "الخاشعين" translated "wong-wong sing gentur" (Q.2:45).

Beside the sentence structure, which needs some rephrasing, I focused on removing the inverted commas, highlighting all foreign words in italics, and transliterating those terms presented in foreign Arabic script. 

[Edited copy]

For example, taqwa (piety) and kafir (disbeliever) is described in one sentence rather than translated verbatim; the verb form tattaqūn (in Q.2:21) is translated as semarah maring gusti Allah, and the verb form kafarū (in Q.2:6) is translated as wong-wong kapir (the use of the letter ‘P’ here is instead of ‘F’ is typical in Banyumasan) with the addition of mbangkang. Other examples of translated cultural terms carried out on certain verse fragments are azwāj muahhara (in Q.2:25) rendered as bojo-bojo sek thing-thing, al-alāt translated as sembahyang, and al-khāshiʿūn as wong-wong sing gentur (in Q.2:45).

The edited text has a much better flow, and the foreign words or phrases appear more integrated and do no longer disrupt the reading. 

Friday 3 December 2021

IV. Foreign Terminology 1


Arabic transliteration? You may not be familiar with it, but there is a way of writing Arabic script in Roman letters ("Arabic Romanization"). 

Those of you who have studied Islamic sciences at western universities are naturally familiar with the main transliteration types. And for those who don't, well, there are people like myself who can help you out...

Those submitting their papers for publication in academic journals will be aware of the publisher's stringent style guides which always include a section on how to transcribe certain Arabic names and terminology. 

The following link is to the transliteration guidelines of the publisher E.J. Brill (Encyclopaedia of Islam, EI):

When editing articles in Islamic Studies and Islamic History & Civilization, I frequently come across Arabic terminology and usually highlight the following:

a) Consistency (in applying one system of transliteration throughout)

b) Accuracy (in applying transliteration rules)

c) Conformity (in accordance with publisher's style guide)

Another common practice in incorporating foreign terminology in a text is to offer the English translation. This is something that Muslim authors tend to forget or overlook, assuming that their readers will be familiar with them. 

Since the primary language of the published text is English, the English term should be followed by the corresponding Arabic term (transliterated). In cases where the explicit focus is on particular foreign terms that have no ready equivalent in English (e.g., zakat), they can be used, followed by the English meaning in brackets. Here, I also check for consistency. 

Below are a few examples, together with my comments. 

[Original copy]

In his book Manahilul Irfan, Az-Zarqani argues that there are two styles of translations: the translations of harfiyya and tafsiriyya.

[Edited copy]

In his Manāhil al-ʿIrfān (Stages of Illumination) al-Zarqani argues that there are two different styles of translation: arfīya (literal) and tafsīrīya (idiomatic).

You can notice in the original text that the author has transliterated the book title but failed to follow proper transliteration guidelines. I first corrected the transliteration and then added the title in English. This should always be done to give the reader an idea what the original is all about. Interested readers are also be able to search and locate copies of the same work translated into English, which is helpful. 

Although there are certain consonants in Arabic that are assimilated (so-called 'Sun letters') when pronounced, this does not usually apply in transliteration (name). 

The adjectives in the last part of the sentence are not correctly transliterated. There are standard variations of how the -iyyah endings can be transliterated. If there is no publisher's style guide to follow, the main criterium is consistency.       

[Original copy]

According to him, as long as there are hints, determining whether a word means majaz or hakikat, is not a difficult thing.

[Edited copy]

… and he immediately went on to decide whether an image was used as a trope (majāz) or in its true meaning (ḥaqīqa).

In this sentence I decided to focus on the English terminology, since the Arabic terminology was of secondary importance. Thus, the equivalent English term is followed by the Arabic term added in brackets. As you can see, I rephrased most of the sentence to achieve more clarity, and added it to the previous sentence to preserve the flow. Also, the foreign terms need to be put in italics to highlight them accordingly and set them apart from the main text. 

[Original copy]

In relation to Al-Quran translation, Mansyur and Setiawan note that harfiyya translation is forbidden for certain verses, essentially if it creates context changes.

[Edited copy]

In relation to Qurʾan translation, Mansyur and Setiawan note that arfīya translation for certain verses is prohibited because it does not take the semantic context of a phrase into account.

The use of the definite article "al" is a common error. It is "al-Qur'an" in Arabic, and "the Qur'an" in English (and not "the al-Qur'an"). Since there is no need for a definite article in English, the correct form is simply "Qur'an translation".

Mansyur and Setiawan are (Indonesian) names, and therefore need no transliteration (stet).

I decided to rephrase the last part of the sentence in order to avoid ambiguity. 

Saturday 25 September 2021

III. Correct Names and Titles

When editing academic research work that is in any way related to history, there is no stopping me... We edit best what we know best, and I'm a trained historian. Although the circumstances did not permit me to pursue (and attain, for that matter) my doctoral degree, my postgraduate studies in Islamic history and European history, in addition to me being a voracious reader, have given me a solid grounding in this field. Hence, when I come across such a history text to proofread, I cannot help noticing anything that "doesn't sit right" and before I know it I'm off down the rabbit hole fact-checking and digging into the fine matter... 

This is a good thing, especially for those who are new in the field and are about to publish their first academic article. It can save the aspiring author much embarrassment if any factual errors are pointed out in due time and can be corrected at this stage. Having someone fact-check your material is especially advisable for those who simply do not have the time to do this themselves. 

[Original copy]

Jones seems almost successful in realizing the entire agenda he had planned. His correspondence with his friends, especially Lord Altohop, gives us an idea of ​​his hard work while in India. For example, his letter to Lord Altohop increasingly convinced his authority in the field of orientalism; "My only wish is to be the most respected European person who knows India better than anyone. For me, just one day not getting any new information about Indian people or their plants is a big loss." The same sentence was also conveyed by Jones in his letter written to Earl Spencer dated February 20, 1791 "in one day I work harder than two people.

The first thing that didn't sit right with me was the name, "Lord Altohop." That did not sound right to the trained ear. Of course, if it was a Korean or Thai name, I wouldn't have a clue, and any misspelling would just fly past me unnoticed. My first reaction was to highlight this matter and ask the author to check and confirm or amend this name. Before I knew it, however, I was researching it myself. I found "Althorp" and knew that I was on the right track. "Althorp" sounded much more English, and an Englishman I was looking for... However, his name wasn't "Lord Althorp" but "Lord Spencer" and "Viscount Althorp." And was he Lord Spencer I, II, or III? How many were they? The final key to his proper identification was the date, 1791, and that he had known Sir Jones in India. 


[Edited copy]

Jones succeeded in realizing most of the points on this agenda. His correspondence with his friends, especially Earl Spencer (1758–1834), shows us how seriously he was invested in his academic work. For example, in his letter to Earl Spencer, he stated his ambition to become an acknowledged authority in orientalist studies: "My only wish is to be the most respected European person who knows India better than anyone. For me, just one day not getting any new information about Indian people or their plants is a big loss." In another letter to Earl Spencer dated 20 February 1791 he wrote: "In one day I work harder than two people."

It is necessary to check and confirm the spelling of every name and title. Viscount Althorp was George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer under King George III. The date is necessary to identify him (there were three Earl Spencers: the grandfather, father, and son). It would reflect badly on the author if he/she takes certain information from other secondary sources without having done some background research. This is time-consuming but necessary. Any relayed information has to be properly fact-checked, and persons need to be properly identified. This is a tedious but necessary part of historical research. A failure to do so means that sketchy, vague, and obscure information is passed on indiscriminately, and the author appears to be rather careless about it. Further, the reader does not benefit from such information at all. 

Thursday 26 August 2021

II. How to Use English Terminology

When it comes to terminology, you might struggle to find the right words. You might have to discuss certain topics that are somewhat out of your comfort zone. The terminology you use may not always be a hundred percent correct. Here I can come in and help: I can make sure that what you want to say is what you write but in fewer words. 

[Original copy]

"The Ministry of Religious Affairs, Indonesia, has translated the Qur'an into nine local languages. One of them is the version in Javanese language of [name]. [Name]’s language is preferred among other Javanese languages, because it is the oldest and most authentic Javanese language."

This is rather confusing -- isn't Indonesian the official language? That means [name] is a dialect or local language. I also think it'd be better to shorten the second sentence. Does the Ministry have to be included here? I don't think so. 

[Edited copy]

"In Indonesia, the text of the Qurʾan is available in nine different local languages. One of them is the Javanese dialect of [name], which is also the oldest and most authentic." 

The edited text conveys the same information but is much shorter. Any irrelevant detail has been removed, and [name] is clearly identified as a Javanese dialect. 

[Original copy]

"Alms (Shadaqah) is commonly done for religious reasons, so people donate voluntarily just to follow the teachings of religion for fear of Allah’s punishment and to get multiple rewards."

I find 'alms' in the plural here problematic because the Arabic term is singular. Also, it should be almsgiving, which is a bit too long and sounds a bit too construed and artificial. Better use 'charity' instead. The point "for fear of Allah's punishment" will be discussed later and is not strictly relevant here. I decide to omit this point and focus on the general (positive) meaning instead. 

[Edited copy]

"Charity (adaqa) is commonly given for religious reasons: Muslims donate voluntarily to earn Allah’s pleasure and receive His blessings."

The main aim is to give a broad definition of 'sadaqa' and the English equivalent, which has been achieved. It is a voluntary act, in contrast to 'zakat' which is mandatory (then fear of punishment makes more sense). 

[Original copy]

"There are several types of alms: material alms, non-material alms, and jariyah alms. Material alms are the giving of one person to another such as goods, money, and food ."

The repeated use of 'alms' might be something that needs fixing. 'Alms are the giving of' is structurally unsound and requires some correction. Non-material or better immaterial? There is also some imbalance here: material and immaterial should be given equal mention. 

[Edited copy]

"There are several types of donations: material, immaterial (even a smile or a kind word is considered charity), and jārīya donations."

I have decided to shorten this. Material donations do not need further clarification but immaterial donations do, especially in this (Islamic) context. Jariya donations will be explained in the following section, so I focused on establishing these three types, without going into further detail.  

[Original copy]

"This study aimed to complement the existing research by analyzing the process of how the shift in interpretation of alms and the changes in the actor’s orientation. In particular, this also analyzes what backgrounds influence the alm actors."

These two sentences need several readings to understand what is said. They will have to be rewritten. I first identify those elements that are necessary and should be kept and those that are superfluous. I try to declutter and re-organize the content. 

[Edited copy]

"This study aimed to complement the existing research by analyzing the shift in interpretation of charity and the change in the actor’s orientation; in particular the background factors influencing the donors."

I keep 'actor' in the first sentence, as it has to do with theory. In the second sentence, however, I use 'donor' to link the idea back to charity. The result is one sentence with a clear structure that is easy to understand. 


Friday 20 August 2021

I. How to Make Your Title Shine

I have found a few good examples to show how research paper titles can be improved by increasing the overall clarity. Good titles are precise and concise and must not be too long and wordy.

When I edit a research paper, I usually leave the title first, edit the whole body of the copy, and only then go back to the title. The same goes for the abstract. There is no point in trying to improve those elements before I have worked through the whole copy and understood all the points. 

I have left out certain details in the examples for privacy reasons. 

Let's have a look at the examples below:

[Original copy]

"Cultural Barriers in Translating the Qur'an into Low Context Culture: The Words of God in Javanese [name of dialect]."

First of all, the title is rather long. Shorter titles are better, but this is not always achievable. Barriers to/in/against/for? Is "cultural barriers" a proper term? English prepositions are a tricky bunch. "Low context culture" -- there might be a hyphen missing here. The "Words of God?" -- shouldn't it be "the Word of God" in the singular? After confirming all points, I decide not to shorten the title because it has a nice parallel structure. 

[Edited copy]

"Cultural Barriers in Translating the Qur’an into Low-Context Culture: The Word of God in Javanese [name of dialect]."

I decide to keep "barriers in" instead of "barriers to" -- both are being used, although the correct use is certainly "barriers to". It has to be "low-context culture" because "low" defines "context", not "culture". "The Word of God" is used instead of "scripture".  It's a good title that describes the topic well. 

[Original copy]

"Waqf and Spirituality-Gene Expression: Quranic Exegesis and Biological Explanation."

 It's obvious that the first word is foreign and should be kept in italics but not the rest. "Spirituality-Gene" seems a bit awkward-- does it need a hyphen? Is "gene expression" a proper term? "Biological explanation" seems a bit stiff and out of place here. 

[Edited copy]

"Waqf and ‘Spirituality Gene’ Expression: The Qurʾan and Advances in Biogenetics."

Waqf as a foreign term is kept in italics. Since I'm familiar with the term "God gene", I take "Spirituality gene" as an adaptation of the said. The article deals with Qur'an interpretation but it's not of primary importance here, therefore "Qur'an" is enough. I decide to replace the rather plain and vague "biological explanation" with "advances in biogenetics" -- it sounds far better. 

[Original copy]

 "The Role of [name] in the Early British Sufism Discourse."

At first sight, the title seems okay, but it can be improved. "Early" and "British" and "Sufism" -- three words to describe "discourse" seems a bit too much. 

[Edited copy]

"Sir [name] (1746–1794) and the Early Orientalist Discourse on Sufism."

Upon researching the name, I learn that [name] had been a British peer. The title "Sir" has to be included in the name. For correct identification of the person, I add the dates in brackets. It also helps the whole (historical) article because now the readers know that it deals with 18th-century history. I decide to keep "early" because the topic deals with the beginnings of orientalism, so it's justified here. What I find missing in the title is "orientalist" and add it to further define "discourse". "Sufism" is the topic of the discourse, so properly rendered as "discourse on Sufism." The initial "the role of" can safely be discarded. If the article is on [name], his role is already implied.  

The Crux of Reducing Similarity

Over the years, I've been contacted a dozen of times by clients who wanted me to reduce the similarity score of their academic research ...