in M.Phil thesis, Writing

This afternoon, my mother kindly passed along a list of 28 minor spelling and grammatical errors in my thesis. Curiously, there seems to be an direct correlation between the number of people who read a particular chapter and the number of errors. The same goes for the length of time that passed between writing and submission. 25 of the 28 errors are in the three chapters for which Dr. Hurrell gave me comprehensive feedback.

  • Chapter 1: 8 errors
  • Chapter 2: 9 errors
  • Chapter 3: 8 errors
  • Chapter 4: 1 error
  • Chapter 5: 2 errors

Chapter two was the single most edited of the lot, with 25 major revisions prior to the one submitted. This seems to confirm the Law of Editing: “For each correction or clarification made, an equal and opposite error will be inadvertently introduced.”

Since the thesis is 30,000 words long, the version that will reside in the Bodleian has about one error per thousand words. The PDF that I will put online once the thesis has been graded will be better, and probably more widely consulted. For those with access to the appropriate restricted pages on the wiki, the corrected version has been uploaded.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben June 5, 2007 at 5:19 pm

It’s easy for errors to creep in as you edit – e.g. re-writing part of a sentence and finding it no longer agrees with the rest. Too bad your mother wasn’t able to proofread before submission, but I imagine you’ll have fewer errors than most (I found even part of my bibliography had been out of alphabetical order!)

Milan June 5, 2007 at 11:24 pm


That is precisely what went wrong, in most cases. This is especially likely to happen when you are trying to cut out words. The errors included:

Typos: 9
Words I failed to remove: 4
Adverb / adjective reversals: 4
Missing words: 3
Grammar: 3
Used a contraction: 1
Spacing errors: 1
Confusion about what albedo actually measures: 1 (it is the amount of light reflected, not the amount absorbed)

Anon June 6, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Will you add a page of errata to the Bodleian copy?

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