Pass the crow. I’ll have seconds.

One could file the following post under “How should I have known?”

I was contacted by a graduate student from an unnamed institution this past week (because of the name and nationality, I could not tell the student’s gender, so I will refer to the student as “they.”) They had a master’s thesis that they wanted copyedited, and the topic (molecular biology) was right up my alley. They also said they were given my name by their advisor. Sounded great, right? Well…There were several things about the email request that concerned me.

First, the student did not address me by name.

Second, they did not name their educational institution or give their advisor’s name.

Third, the email originated from a live.com address, not an address from any kind of institution.

Fourth, the deadline was rather tight.

So, saying “Better safe than sorry,” I turned the job down, telling the student that I did not believe I was the ideal editor for their work and wishing them well. I also showed the email to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association Discussion List to get my colleagues’ opinion on whether this request was legit.

The good people at the EFA did some excellent detective work and found out which institution the student was from and their advisor’s name. So let us found out where I went wrong:

  1. They may have not addressed me by name because they could not tell my gender from my name.
  2. A live.com address is legitimate; the student may only be using their school email address for communication with faculty and other students.
  3. Many students who are unfamiliar with copyediting underestimate the time it will take to do so.

Therefore, I lost out on a gig. I am wiser for next time, and hoping my reputation has not been tarnished.

Onwards and upwards.

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