KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jargon and Plain Language in Science Writing

My authors who write reports on their research for publication in medical journals tend to use a lot of jargon. I try to help them make their writing easier to understand for the very reason discussed in this New York Times article:

"[A] team of researchers has analyzed jargon in a set of over 21,000 scientific manuscripts. They found that papers containing higher proportions of jargon in their titles and abstracts were cited less frequently by other researchers. Science communication—with the public but also among scientists—suffers when a research paper is packed with too much specialized terminology, the team concluded."

I'm not at all suggesting that my authors completely eliminate jargon in such reports. But I ask them to use plainer language wherever possible, and even to define some of the terms, because people other than their departmental supervisor, who insisted that true professionals write impenetrable prose, are going to read their articles. And those people need to be able to understand the articles so that nonscientists in government and in the general public don't make unscientific decisions concerning public health and the environment.

Take a look at this blog post by my colleague Mike Pope on "good" and "bad" jargon.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

JAMA Deputy Editor Is Fired After Denying the Existence of Structural Racism

Edward H. Livingston, MD, a white man and the deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, hosted a podcast in which he questioned the existence of structural racism: "Structural racism is an unfortunate term. Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist."

And such behavior is exactly how structural racism is perpetuated.

Thank goodness that after public outcry, JAMA's editor-in-chief asked for and accepted Livingston's resignation.

And the American Medical Association itself issued a statement:

"To be clear, structural racism exists in the U.S. and in medicine, genuinely affecting the health of all people, especially people of color and others historically marginalized in society. This is not opinion or conjecture, it is proven in numerous studies, through the science and in the evidence. As physicians, and as leaders in medicine, we have a responsibility to not only acknowledge and understand the impact of structural racism on the lives of our patients, but to speak out against racial injustices wherever they exist in health care and society. ...

"Importantly, the AMA is investigating the circumstances that led up to the podcast and tweet and will make the changes necessary to address them. The AMA and JAMA have taken immediate actions in this past week, and more will follow. ..."



#structural #racism #racist #medicine #editors #editing #JAMA #AMA #EditorMom

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Building Author–Editor Relationships

Orthopedic surgeons Dr. Jing-Chuan Sun, Dr. Chen Yan, Dr. Hao-Yuan Tan, and Dr. Huai-Cheng Jia, all from China.

It's always so satisfying to establish a good working relationship with my authors. After working through 2 revisions of a manuscript for a research report on a procedure for repairing spinal cord problems, I told the corresponding author that I like to have photos of my authors so that I can picture them helping patients in doing the procedures and techniques that they research.

This made my author happy. He said, "I am very glad to do it like this."

So this an operating-room photo of 4 of the 15 authors of the manuscript. Left to right, they are Dr. Jing-Chuan Sun, Dr. Chen Yan (the corresponding author), Dr. Hao-Yuan Tan, and Dr. Huai-Cheng Jia, all from China. The patients on whom they and their coauthors operated and whose cases they studied to determine best practices for a particular surgical technique came through any of 7 different hospitals: Changzheng Hospital, Changhai Hospital, Shanghai First People’s Hospital, Linzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fifth Hospital of Southern Medical University, Shenzhen Hospital of Beijing University, and General Hospital of Nanjing Military Command.

I'm so glad to know that these surgeons—and all of my other surgeon-authors—are out there working to make life better for so many patients. And it is an honor to be entrusted with editing for them so that they can share their research findings with English speakers around the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

How Self-Employed Editorial Pros Can Use Social Media to Get Work

I don't understand why self-employed editorial pros don't find social media useful for getting work. And I'm an introvert.

I’ve long used LinkedIn, along with Twitter and Facebook, not to ask people for work or referrals but to post links to articles about editing, medical editing, and self-employment to make clear that I have a wide and deep knowledge of editing and to sound so interesting (in my commentary on the linked articles) that people think of me whenever they need a medical editor. This is not sales or bragging; it’s sharing knowledge and resources. And it works well for me. I get inquiries from potential clients and referrals from colleagues because of it.

It's not that you do sales pitches on social media. You just must be consistently present, in the particular venues that feel comfortable to you, and you share ideas and information about the things you know about in your profession. You don't brag, and you don't say, "I'm sharing this because I want you to see how smart and skilled I am." You just share helpful stuff and answer questions about it when asked. You'll be remembered as that helpful person who has #editing or proofreading or indexing experience in, for example, astronomy or animal health or human rights or public education.

Remember, this technique doesn't work overnight. It's part of playing the long game of marketing.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Epicene "They" Spreads to Science and Medical Writing

Epicine "they"
Even writing in medical journals, often seen as being very formal academic-speak, is now using singular "they," also referred to as "epicene 'they.' "

You can find evidence of this in section 11.12.2 of the new 11th edition of the AMA Manual of Style:

Avoid sex-specific pronouns in cases in which sex specificity is irrelevant. Do not use common-gender "pronouns" (eg, "s/he," "shem," "shim"). Reword the sentence to use a singular or plural non–sex-specific pronoun, neutral noun equivalent, or change of voice; or use "he or she" ("him or her," "his or her[s]," "they or their[s]"). The use of the "singular they" construction is permitted when rewriting would be awkward or unclear (see, Pronoun-Pronoun Agreement).

The post "Singular They" on the AMA Style Insider blog talked about this before the manual's 11th edition was published:

The AMA Manual of Style will follow suit [ie, follow the lead of the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style] with the next edition, allowing the use of plural pronouns with singular indefinite antecedents (eg, Everyone allocates their time) in an effort to avoid sex-specific pronouns and awkward sentence structure.

If you are a paying member of the Council of Science Editors, you can read more about the history of epicine "they" in the article "The Epicene Solution" in the spring 2020 issue (volume 43, issue 1) of the journal Science Editor.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What Non-Native English Speakers Need When Submitting Manuscripts to Western Science Journals

Editing for authors who are non-native English speakers
This article from The Scientist is right that language problems aren't always what get international authors' research manuscripts rejected by English-language science journals. Most often, there is a problem with the research described in the manuscript. But still, even though many journals will say publicly that poor English won't cause rejection, authors and editors alike know that's not always the truth.

Sometimes the problem is cultural differences between authors and the staff of target journals. If authors are unfamiliar with how a journal's publishing culture operates, they can lose chances to get published. If, on top of that, they are not native speakers of English, there can be rejection-inducing misunderstandings in communication. And finally, some journals' peer reviewers truly will not even review a manuscript if they can tell that English is not the authors' native language.

When authors who are non-native speakers of English look for editors outside their target journals to help them, they may encounter some editors

  • Who aren't highly skilled and thus who introduce errors into manuscripts

  • Who are in financial relationships with the journals and thus don't have the authors' best interests at heart

  • Who aren't willing or able to help authors understand the journals' culture

  • Who fit all of the preceding descriptions.

It can take time, but authors can eventually find editors like me who are quite skilled, who have no financial connections with the authors' target journals, and who are happy to "translate" the culture of authors' target journals. And once they find such editors, they can build long-term work relationships that benefit both parties.

Authors who want more information on working with good editors should read the book Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers, by Valerie Matarese. [Disclosure: I am one of the expert authors quoted in the book.]

Monday, March 16, 2020

Purging Plagiarism: Why Authors Plagiarise and How to Fix It

One of the most difficult situations for an editor to deal with is finding plagiarism in a client’s work. The initial reaction is often shock or disbelief, which is the result of the editor’s knowledge and understanding of the legal and ethical issues surrounding plagiarism. This understanding is not always shared by our clients. Regardless of culture, or author awareness of the ethics of plagiarism, both native and non-native English speakers may struggle to identify plagiarism in their own work, and so it is good practice to never assume that plagiarism has been done maliciously or was intentional.

Shutterstock / Pixelvario /Sign in foreground of grassy field with two arrows pointing in opposite directions, one pointing towards creativity and the other towards imitation
With this in mind, Joely Taylor and I teamed up to co-author a presentation on plagiarism for the 9th Institute of Professional Editors Limited national editors conference in Melbourne, Australia, in May 2019. We have since expanded on the content in the talk and have written a paper to provide authors and editors with a more comprehensive guide on plagiarism.

In the paper we explain that there are numerous methods for finding plagiarism in text, including relying on the editor’s own ear in picking up sudden changes in language, finding hotlinks in text and using commercial plagiarism-checking software. We also describe the different categories of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, patch-writing and copy-paste writing.

In an increasingly digitised world, with exponential growth in publications, in this case scientific publications, preventing plagiarism becomes a larger and more complex issue. In addition, English may be the international language of science, but increasingly non-native English speakers are contributing to science by writing journal papers. It is the role of the international research community to ensure that the privilege of native English speakers does not stand in the way of the continued unification and dissemination of good research by researchers across the globe.

Despite the reason for plagiarism, understanding the different categories of plagiarism and how it comes about will assist authors and editors in better managing plagiarism when it appears in text and in being able to confidently and knowledgeably understand plagiarism and how to avoid it in the future.

It is the role of the international research community to ensure that the privilege of native English speakers does not stand in the way of the continued unification and dissemination of good research by researchers across the globe.

Download the paper Purging plagiarism: Why authors plagiarise and how to fix it.

View this blog post and the paper on Dr Joely Taylor’s blog, Well Writ.

Dr Joely Taylor is a former research scientist. Specialising in academic, technical and scientific editing, Dr Taylor is an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd in Australia, an Editor in the Life Sciences with the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences in the US, and an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (the former Society for Editors and Proofreaders) in the UK.

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, ELS, is a self-employed medical editor with board certification in the life sciences. Her editing has helped researchers in more than 20 nations get published in more than 50 different medical journals. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Council of Science Editors, the American Medical Writers Association, the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, and ACES: the Society for Editing.

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