Navigating the Acknowledgments Section of Academic Papers

Understanding Attributions to Your Translator and Editor

Your research is finished, you’ve written up your results and now you’re ready to do the final bit – the Acknowledgments. In fact, the Acknowledgments section is a critical part of your manuscript. While technically, it’s probably the easiest part to write, it still needs to be done well. It’s here that your integrity as an academic researcher will be scrutinized, and attribution will be expected by those who provided financial and/or intellectual help.

This short, but sensitive, section raises a number of important questions. Does this courtesy extend to those outside of academia? What about the editor, who polished your words and provided insightful comments? What about the translator, who made your paper sound like it had been written by a native speaker? Do they warrant a mention, too?

While it is certainly polite to thank those who contributed, there is no one-size-fits-all way of doing it. We’ve outlined a number of tips and points to consider when crafting your Acknowledgments section.  

Acknowledging your editing and translation assistance 

In most peer-reviewed academic journals, the submission guidelines will stipulate that you must list any assistance you received writing your manuscript. This could be paid professional help or a favour from a colleague. If either of these is the case, a simple line at the end of the Acknowledgments saying, for example, “I’d like to thank x for their help in editing/translating this paper” will suffice. Not only does this abide by the rules of the journal, but it shows that you take your writing and the publishing process seriously.

A good editor or translator acts as a conduit for your words. And the editorial world knows that any author who takes their writing seriously will ask someone to read through it before it’s published. Even professional wordsmiths seek a second opinion when they write. Acknowledging that you used a language expert to help you with your manuscript does not suggest that you’re a substandard writer. In fact, by seeking out additional expertise to ensure the best possible experience for the reader, you are highlighting your own professionalism and modesty.

Who gets acknowledged and where? 

Editors are generally used to being invisible. In fact, it is a truth universally acknowledged that if the reader can tell that the text has been edited, the editor hasn’t done their job properly. Almost every published manuscript will have gone through the hands of a copyeditor or proofreader at some point, but their name will not appear anywhere. This isn’t unusual and isn’t considered bad form; however, being credited correctly is very much appreciated and can provide assurance of a job well done. 

Translators are normally much more visible and are often mentioned on the inside cover of books. Indeed, there is an ongoing debate within the publishing world that they should be more conspicuous by being listed on the book’s cover, alongside the author. However, this debate raises a number of questions. How far should authorship and attribution be taken? Who does the translation actually belong to? While the choice of specific words, which often requires a high degree of specialized knowledge and creativity, belong to the translator, the initial words belong to the author. 

In fact, some language professionals prefer not to be credited at all, especially if changes have been made to the manuscript after they’ve worked on it. Some may feel that their professional integrity is on the line.  

If in doubt, ask

If you don’t have to attribute writing assistance but would like to mention the help you received in the Acknowledgements, it is recommended to ask the person directly if they would like to be credited and in what way. Some important questions to ask in these situations include:

  • The preferred spelling of their name
  • Their preferred role definition (e.g. copyediting, line editing, proofreading, translating)

Often, language professionals like to market themselves in a particular way, and your thank you will help dictate how they appear in search engines.

If you prefer not to mention that you received help, but still want to say thanks, you can pass their details on to a colleague, write a testimonial for their website or ask if you could send them your next manuscript. These options show that you value their work and appreciate their collaboration. 

In summary

The Acknowledgements section is a crucial part of any manuscript. Not only is it an opportunity to show your appreciation for the help you received from your academic peers, but it is also a chance to thank professionals outside your own area of expertise. Done well, it will highlight your integrity as a serious and professional author and encourage people to collaborate with you on future projects.

Ensuring that you thank the right people for the help received can be tricky, especially if there are no publishing guidelines to follow. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask how they would like to be credited. When done correctly, you can form a mutually beneficial collaboration that lasts for many, many years.

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