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My parents are professional copy editors. On occasion, I will send them a manuscript to read for spelling, grammatical, and stylistic suggestions. It occurs to me that, whereas I would always automatically acknowledge any colleague who provided feedback on a draft (no matter how minimal), I have yet to do so when it comes to them. Should I be acknowledging my parents?

Argument in favor:

  • It feels slightly dishonest not to.

Arguments against:

  • Their input is strictly confined to language, and has no bearing whatsoever on any technical aspects or conclusions drawn.
  • I have a distinct last name, and having two more of that name appear in the acknowledgements section looks nepotistic, and/or like I'm in 7th grade.
  • They don't care.
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    Damn, both of them? Their love letters must have been immaculate. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 16:22
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    My mother, who is a freelance technical illustrator, provided me with an image for my PhD thesis. She was acknowledged twice in the "Acknowledgements" section---once as a parent, and once as a full human being in her own right for the contribution. The former acknowledgement would be inappropriate outside of a thesis. The latter would be appropriate in any published document. Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 3:06
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    Thesis or journal paper? I'd acknowledge in both cases but differently
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 8:03
  • @XanderHenderson: "once as a parent, and once as a full human being" ... !? Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 10:06
  • @cbeleitesunhappywithSX When you say "Thank you to my parents, Alice and Bob, ..." the people that you are thanking only exist in relation to the author---they are subsumed into the role "parent", and put into that box by the reader. Notice the role-first language here: these people are put into the role of parent, then named (almost as an afterthought). When you say "Thanks to Alice Smith, who provided the illustration on page xx," the person is acknowledged first, and then their role is explained. They get to be a person before the relationship is described. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 13:41

2 Answers 2

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Certainly, do it. You don't have to identify them as your parents, however, just by name. But indicate that it is for copyediting so that it is clear that it is only an ack that is needed.

Lucky you to have such a resource.

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    I would do it the other way round. Thank your parents for copy editing, not by name.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 5:57
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    @usr1234567, then you are stressing the relationship, not their professional competence.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 11:39
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    This would emphasis their motivation to help me (as my parents), and it does not look weird to acknowledge people with the same last name. Usually I don't justify that the help was competent, I just thank or acknowledge.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 12:11
  • "I would like to thank ..., and X and Y for help with copy editing."
    – Pablo H
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 18:32
  • @PabloH, are you suggesting anonymous acknowledgement? That isn't acknowledgement at all.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 18:35
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Reading down your question, my first thought was to simply have the conversation with them to see if they wanted the formal acknowledgement. For your "automatic" acknowledgement of any colleague who provided feedback I would also suggest discussing it first (assuming the acknowledgement is not already in the draft copy they are reviewing). This would not be with an intention to withhold the acknowledgement, but rather as a polite curtesy to allow them to opt out if for whatever reason they choose to decline. A simple offer "Thank you for your contribution to <x>. It is my intention to include an acknowledgement of your contribution by <including you as an author | including your contribution in a list of acknowledgements>. If you prefer not to be acknowledged or have other concerns please let me know."

They don't care.

Having had the conversation, recognize that there are two elements to consider.

  1. There is the personal acknowledgement for their effort in assisting you, presumably for free as your parents. If they have no personal interest in the acknowledgement you are free to do as you wish. You don't have to name them as your parents, or by last name, a simple "Thank you John and Jane for your valuable assistance in copy editing." would be fine.

  2. As professional copy editors there may be a professional acknowledgement to consider. If they are freelancers, running a private business, or otherwise accepting outside work and not dedicated full time to a particular publication it may be helpful to them to have an acknowledgement for marketing purposes. An acknowledgement "Thank you to <the staff | John and Jane> of Xyz Inc. for copy editing services." may be an easy "throw away" inclusion for you, but could be the basis of published referenceable work and potential sales leads for them. You do need to consider the cultural sensitivity of this to decide if even a subtle acknowledgement may be taken as blatant commercialization.

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