Thread: Research and Promising Practices

Editing the spoken academic text

Sally Burgess, Ana Díaz Galán and María del Carmen Fumero Pérez – La Laguna, Spain

Editing a paper written to be spoken or read aloud at a conference involves some additional processes that are not normally applied to academic papers written for publication. We present a case study of a Spanish-speaking scholar writing, rehearsing and ultimately presenting a contribution to a colloquium in an international conference where English was the working language.

Drawing on data collected in the course of our work with a Spanish-speaking scholar, we will show an example of a text to be edited and indicate the various editorial processes that might be applied (editing for grammar, syntax, word choice and spelling and rhetorical structure). We then have the scholar read his paper aloud (illustrated by an audio recording) in order to identify those aspects requiring additional editing to ease the task of oral presentation. The result of this process will be illustrated by playing a recording of the writer reading part of the edited-for-ease-of-delivery version of the paper.

Our study suggests that revising the text at the word and clause level allowed the presenter to avoid obstacles to fluency caused by features of English pronunciation (word and sentence stress).

This case study has shown that additional editing of written academic texts can ease the task of oral presentation. Without this the scholar’s contribution would have been less readily comprehensible and far less well-received by his audience. We argue that author’s editors should consider using our approach when editing papers that are to be spoken or read aloud.


Sally Burgess, María del Carmen Fumero Pérez and Ana Díaz Galán are working translators, editors and researchers in the field of academic writing and speaking. Until recently they have devoted most of their attention to written academic texts but have now begun to focus on the editing of texts written to be spoken or read aloud. They are all members of the University of La Laguna’s Contrastive Studies of Academic Discourse research team and have run a number of courses for university staff and postgraduate students on writing for publication. In early 2007 they were members of the organising committee for the first conference on Publishing and Presenting Research Internationally: Issues for Speakers of English as an Additional Language (PPRISEAL).

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