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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What Value Do You Get for Your Membership Dues in Profession-Related Organizations?

This chart is an excellent tool, prepared by the Editors' Association of Canada (EAC)/Association canadienne des réviseurs so that its members can see how what the EAC provides for its membership dues compared with similar professional groups in Canada.

It would be quite helpful if US professional organizations for editorial workers produced US-centric charts for their members. Editorial Freelancers Association, American Medical Writers Association, Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, Council of Science Editors, and American Copy Editors Society, among many others, I'm looking at you.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Copyediting-L: The Editor's Best Friend

I'm excited to say that I have been chosen as one of the co-owners of my favorite email list, Copyediting-L (aka CE-L), and its offshoot, Copyediting-Off-List-L (CEL-O), where editor types can chat about non-editing-related stuff. Bill Blinn and Jane Lyle, the lists' owners for a very long time, set a great example in how to keep a high-traffic email list on topic but also how to nurture the kindness of listmates. If I and my fellow list owner, John Renish, can do at least half as good a job as Bill and Jane did, then CE-L will remain the copyeditor's best work friend.

Here is how CE-L describes itself:

Copyediting-L is a list for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing: sticky style issues; philosophy of editing; newspaper, technical, and other specialized editing; reference books; client relations; Internet resources; electronic editing and software; freelance issues; and so on.

CE-L is my favorite work tool, a source of project and client referrals, a place where I know everyone else understands exactly how I feel and exactly what I mean. I've made a lot of friends there and learned a lot of things that have been helpful in my career. Please come check out the list. We'd love to learn from you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Doing Business the Unhelpful Old-Fashioned Way

Both U.S. banks and U.S. local government agencies are still operating in the previous century, which can cause small businesses like mine time and money.

In 1998 I opened a business checking account for the first time for my business, KOK Edit, after several years of just operating under my own personal name. Before I could do that, I was required to drive to the county clerk's office to file paperwork for a business certificate for my sole proprietorship. That's a 70-mile round trip. This process is also known as filing for a DBA—or a "doing business as"—certificate. I then had to present an official copy (i.e., one that had been impressed with the official county seal) to the bank. All of the DBA applications and completed certificates for the entire county were filed then as pieces of paper in a large bank of filing cabinets in the county clerk's office. In order to get the county to complete the certificate, you had to spend time searching, by hand, through those filing cabinets to ensure that no one else had already claimed the business name that you wanted to use.

All these years later, DBA certificate records are searchable online, but of course it's hard to find mine because (1) the county clerk's office misrepresented my business's name as "K O K Edit" instead of "KOK Edit" and (2) who knows how they handled my punctuated surname (O'Moore-Klopf), which carries both an apostrophe and a hyphen, along with 3 capital letters.

I now need an official copy of that DBA certificate so that I can open a business checking account at a different bank. You'd think that in the 21st century, I could request that the county clerk’s office send an electronic copy of my certificate either to me or to the bank where I am opening a checking account. But you would be wrong. The bank will not accept an electronic copy, and besides, it apparently hasn’t occurred to anyone at the county clerk’s office that having such a capability would be helpful. Someone must make the 70-mile round trip to pick up a new official copy of my DBA certificate so that I can then hand-carry it to the bank.

Why am I having to change banks for my business account after 15 years? Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that HSBC, my longtime bank,

told some of its small-business clients in the U.S. this week the bank will no longer serve them, according to a letter sent to clients that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. A spokeswoman for the U.K. lender said the decision, scheduled to take effect in November, is the result of a strategic review of all its small and medium-size businesses in the U.S. ... As part of the continuing review, HSBC is looking at its business relationships with corporate customers to determine which clients have international needs, an area that has long been identified as the bank's expertise. “Because international business and trade are at the heart of our strategy, these are the clients who would most benefit from banking with HSBC."

It’s annoying enough that the bank I had used for years is dumping me and sole proprietors like me because we’re not big money-makers for them. But at least there is the convenience that the county clerk’s office will allow my husband to do the pickup for me, as long as he has acceptable identification (e.g., a driver’s license). That’s helpful because he is off work today, so if he makes the trip, I can keep editing. But nothing else about this tale is convenient. Why are we still operating in the previous century?

P.S. My husband, who just now picked up the copy of my DBA certificate, says those old certificates are no longer stored as pieces of paper. The assistant clerk found mine on microfiche. A step toward modernity? Not quite. And yes, I am moving to a credit union. It is my understanding that years ago, New York State law did not allow credit unions to offer checking accounts to small businesses; now this is allowed, though not all credit unions offer business accounts.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What Do You Use LibraryThing For?

Today on one of the profession-related e-mail lists I subscribe to, I mentioned LibraryThing as a tool that I use in marketing my business. A listmate asked whether LibraryThing is also a social site, and yes, it is. I shared there the ways that it can be used, and I'm offering the information here too for the rest of my colleagues who don't subscribe to that list.

I use LibraryThing as a way to have a detailed online inventory of the books I own (I'm still not caught up with that part!) and the books I've edited. My library is here. And I like that LibraryThing offers me a chance to create widgets showing the books I've edited, for use on my web site, on this blog (see the sidebar at the right), and on my LinkedIn profile.

But LibraryThing is a social site too. It offers discussion groups, including one named Hobnob with Authors, which LinkedIn describes like this:

This is a group for readers and authors to connect. Unlike the rest of the groups, this is a "safe space" for authors to promote and converse about their books without fear of being accused of spamming. Authors are encouraged to chat with members, not just copy and paste blurbs about their books.

There is also a group called Author Chat:

Author Chat has scheduled discussions with authors. Each "chat" will be contained in one topic thread. So come up with your questions, and start asking! Authors who are interested in having their own chats should email ...

And there are many book- and book-topic discussion groups. I don't participate in any of the LibraryThing groups, because my favorite arenas are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and there's only so much time in the day. But I can see that some editorial workers might find networking through LibraryThing very helpful.

Check out the main About page for more information.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is Editing Cheaper the Second Time Around?

Dear journal authors, both those who are native speakers of English and those who are non-native speakers of English:

Sometimes after I have edited an article for you and you have submitted it to a journal, the journal then requests that you revise it for science-related reasons rather than language-related reasons. And then you ask me to edit the revisions before you resubmit your article. Does that mean I am going to edit just the sections that you tell me you have revised?



  • Because it is my experience that authors always make minor revisions throughout a manuscript after I have edited it. I must reread the entire manuscript to make sure that the supposedly unchanged parts mesh with the officially revised parts.
  • Because I must double-check that in revising your manuscript, you have addressed all of the points made by the journal's reviewers.
  • Because often when authors revise their manuscript for resubmission to a journal, they plan to submit it to a different journal than their original target journal. Each journal has different preferences for how to handle reference citations, headings, tables, figure legends, and many other elements, so it is important that I check all parts of your revised manuscript to ensure that they follow the requirements of the journal that is your current submission target.

So no, it may not be hugely cheaper for me to edit your revised manuscript than it was for me to edit it the first time. Editing takes time; it does not go at all as quickly as reading for pleasure does.

Your editor

Friday, August 09, 2013

Medicine's Michelangelo: The Life & Art of Frank H. Netter, MD

Medicine's Michelangelo: The Life & Art of Frank H. Netter, MD
Finally! Now I can tell everyone about a wonderful book I was honored to copyedit: Medicine's Michelangelo: The Life & Art of Frank H. Netter, MD. It will be in print in October.

If you've ever looked up medical illustrations so you could learn more about the human body, chances are good that many of the illustrations you saw were created by Frank Netter. His daughter Francine Mary Netter has done a spectacular job of pulling the reader into Frank Netter's life. I had always admired him just because of the beauty of his art, but now I admire him even more.

Here is another cool detail: Quinnipiac University Press is the book's publisher, and Quinnipiac University just recently opened the new Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.

I am glad to have had the privilege of following in the editorial footsteps of my colleagues Patrick Inman, who served as the book's developmental editor and is talented at seeing the big picture, and Robin Miura, who, as the book's agent, played matchmaker between the author and Quinnipiac University Press and then recommended my services to the press. I know Patrick and Robin through the Copyediting-L e-mail list and through the private (members-only) e-mail list of the Editorial Freelancers Association. It's vital that freelance editorial workers have good connections.

Updated at 11:21 a.m., August 20, 2013: In a lovely coincidence, I've just now discovered a feature story (a PDF) about Netter that appeared in the January–February 2006 issue of Science Editor, the journal of the Council of Science Editors, just a few short months before I became a CSE member.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Survive Summer Break When You're a Parent and Self-Employed

Many editors choose self-employment because they want to have more time with their families. But how can you as a freelancer enjoy some quality time with your school-age children during summer break and still get work done?

Hold a family meeting to discuss everyone's needs during the summer. Talk about daily schedules, child care plans, the children’s plans, and your work plans. Discuss with your partner, if you have one, how having the children around more often for the summer will affect work for the two of you, and if necessary, make arrangements for temporary changes in how you handle child care.

Consider reducing your expectations for how much work you'll get done during the break. After all, the children's time off offers you a chance to relax a bit too. If you reserve a part of each workday for doing something fun with them, this will help them realize that you'll always make time for them, so they'll be more inclined to give you quiet time for concentrating on work.

Discuss home-office rules with your children:

  • Who is allowed to answer calls to your business land line or cell phone?
  • How is everyone to act when you must be on the phone with a client?
  • How will you signal when you're available versus unavailable to talk with family members?
  • How is each person to handle any emergencies that come up during work time?

Work with everyone in your household to put together a daily schedule for the summer break. Yes, it should be flexible for when unexpected chances for fun come up—say, a trip to the beach or a museum. But a schedule will let everyone know what to expect and will increase the likelihood that you'll get the time you need for work.

You may want to schedule time each workday for the children to read by themselves while you’re working. This will increase their reading skills and give you more time for concentrating on editing.

Consider planning some time each workday for the children to be out of the house, so that you have uninterrupted quiet time. You can trade child care days with friends or nearby relatives: They host your children on some days, and then you host their children on other days. Also, sending the children to local day camps that meet their interests (such as acting camp, science camp, art camp, robot-building camp, cooking camp) may be a good choice, depending on your budget.

Schedule workday lunches with the children. They'll look forward to this time with you, and you'll get a break from work. Lunch doesn't have to be indoors. If you picnic outdoors nearby, all of you will get time together and some healthy vitamin D from the sunshine. And getting away from editing for a while will mentally refresh you.

Most important, though, is that you not be too hard on yourself during summer break if things don't always go as planned. I've been editing with my children around for 18 years now, and I'm still refining how I handle it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

News You Can Use

Every morning, I make the rounds to keep up with editorial news. These are my sources, in the order I consult them:

  1. Copyediting newsletter (its blog and Twitter account)
  2. .
  3. Posts on dedicated blogs, Facebook, and Twitter by the staff of style guides: AMA Manual of Style (blog AMA Style Insider and Twitter account); Chicago Manual of Style (Facebook page and Twitter account); the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Style Blog and Twitter account); Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers (Twitter account); and Associated Press Stylebook (Twitter account)
  4. .
  5. Posts on Facebook and Twitter by members of several editing professional associations, including the Editorial Freelancers Association (Facebook page and Twitter account), the American Medical Writers Association (Facebook page and Twitter account), the American Copy Editors Society (Facebook page and Twitter account), the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (Facebook page and Twitter account), and the Council of Science Editors (Facebook page and Twitter account)
  6. .
  7. My editorial pro peeps on Twitter

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Award-Winning Author

Breaking news! A Dream of Daring, the most recent novel by my longtime author, all-around good person and excellent storyteller Gen LaGreca, has won 2 Indie Book Awards! The book is an excellent read about the clash between advancing technology and the institution of slavery in pre–Civil War America.

Below is a screen shot of the lovely e-mail Gen sent to me about the awards. In case you can't easily read her message, here's what it says:

Hey Kathy,

The first 2013 awards contest has weighed in, and we won in two categories! I say WE because I could not have done this without your superb editing!

(Other contest results will follow in the next 12 months, so stay tuned. The Indie Book Awards people have officially notified the winners and told us that the 2013 contest results will post on their website by May 31.)

All the best from your appreciative author,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Relationship Book That Speaks Layperson

Being a medical editor, I edit a lot of medical-journal manuscripts. Even the book manuscripts that I edit are mostly written for health-care professionals and so are very technical. But a recent one—We Are All From Uranus: How to Have Out-of-This-World Relationships—speaks layperson, meaning that it talks like we regular folks do in our everyday lives. And that's a huge strength.

I'll bet that like many people, some of you reading this blog post have been in relationship therapy. I have. And one thing I found intimidating about the process is all the jargon. To be in therapy, it seems you have to learn a new language. But the authors of WAFU (that's their nickname for the book) toss around very little jargon. Reading the book, you get the feeling that you're talking with old friends—friends who just happen to have some excellent advice for how to get your intimate relationships back on track. Working on personal relationships is tough enough, but the authors' approach doesn't add to that inherent difficulty. With plain language and humor, they make that tough work seem doable. In discussing an exercise for readers to engage in with their partners to get practice in speaking up about what actions they do or do not want in their relationship, the authors write:

Do this exercise with your partner until they cry uncle—and then do it once more. Continue to work on eliminating your own [problematic] beliefs. ... You are learning to negotiate and communicate. It might even lead to conscious cooperation. It might even start to happen accidentally, out of habit. Look, Ma, no hands!

When people focus on relationship difficulties, they can sometimes start seeing the world as a rather gloomy place, so the authors' humor is a refreshing relief:

Now step back just for a minute and think about all you have learned and accomplished so far. Can you believe it? You are becoming a summa cum laude black-belt relationship master! Keep up the good work, and continually remind yourself of how far you've come since we started! You can even pat yourself on the back if you'd like. You see, flexibility can come in handy.

But don't let the humor fool you. Charles E. Bailey is a physician, general psychiatrist, and clinical researcher. Though he and his coauthor, Rebecca Lane, have a down-to-earth writing voice, there is plenty of solid advice in the book.

We Are All From Uranus: How to Have Out-of-This-World Relationships, by Rebecca Lane and Charles E. Bailey, MD, from the Global Institute for Scientific Thinking. Paperback (ISBN: 978-1936264230; US$16.77); 190 pages.

Friday, April 12, 2013

2013 Update: The Journals in Which My ESL Authors Get Published

Hurray! The count of biomedical journals in which my ESL (English as a second language) authors have gone on to have their manuscripts published after having them edited by me is now ...


Here is the full list.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Reason #357 I'm Self-Employed

The editor and her dog at naptime
This week I'm reconfirming that I am not an early morning person.

My husband is usually the one who is up early enough to ensure that our sixth-grader gets to the bus stop on time three days a week and to drive him to school twice a week for before-school orchestra practice.

Several days this week, though, my husband is working out in the field rather than in his cabinet shop, and that requires him to be out our front door extra early. So I have kid-rousting duty, which means I'm awake very early. This all reminds me of back when I was an employee, when I used to head off to the commuter train station in a mental haze each workday morning when it was still dark out.

Thank the universe I am self-employed and can set humane hours for myself!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Making Your Résumé and Other Files Downloadable from Your LinkedIn Profile

The "Add a link" icon
Why make your résumé or work samples available through your LinkedIn profile, especially if they're already available on your business web site? I always say: The more ways there are for potential clients to find you, the better.

LinkedIn used to have an arrangement with Box.com that would allow users to add Box as an application for their LinkedIn profile. This was handy for making available files for profile viewers to download, such as a PDF of a résumé. A few months ago, that arrangement ended and LinkedIn redesigned users' profiles. A colleague asked me how to make a PDF available now through her LinkedIn profile, and it occurred to me that she might not be the only one who would like instructions for how to do that. Here they are:

  1. Upload the PDF to storage space that you have online somewhere, such as with Box.com or Dropbox. Once it has finished uploading, copy and paste the direct link for the PDF into Notepad on your computer (or into any program on your computer that will allow you to paste a link into it).
  3. Log in to your LinkedIn profile and click the blue button that reads "Edit your profile."
  5. Hover your cursor near an appropriate section of your LinkedIn profile, such as "Experience," in which you would like for your PDF to appear. Look for a blue rectangle with a plus sign in its lower right-hand corner. Click that rectangle.
  7. Add the link to your PDF (which you recorded in Notepad) in the "Add a link" box that appears.
  9. Click the blue "Done editing" box near the top of the page, close to your photograph.

If you already have a link to your résumé or other files you want to share available through your business web site, you can just copy and paste that link into the fourth step above. All that matters is for the file or files to available somewhere online.

Note: The ability to share files from your LinkedIn profile entails using what LinkedIn calls its "rich media feature." The feature hasn't been rolled out yet to some LinkedIn users who weren't sharing files via their LinkedIn profiles before LinkedIn took away access to applications such as Box.com, so if the above instructions don't work for you now, they may soon.

Updated on July 31, 2013, at 12:15 p.m.: LinkedIn has now rolled out file-sharing abilities for all LinkedIn users. Here is a post on the blog of Copyediting newsletter describing what LinkedIn users can do with this capability. And here is a page from the Help section of LinkedIn that lists the types of files that can now be displayed on LinkedIn profiles, through various content-provider intermediaries.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Desks That Move You

In my first contribution for Copyediting newsletter's Business of Editing column (April–May issue), I talk about the need for editors like you and me to maintain our most important business tool—our body. Exercise isn't the only technique we must use to keep our bodies in good working shape. We also have to get moving much more often throughout our entire workday. We can't just exercise in the morning and then sit all the time we're working. Sitting all day negates the effects of exercising.

When we sit, levels of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase in our leg muscles drop drastically. That enzyme pulls fat (triglycerides) out of our blood so that our body can use it for fuel. If lipoprotein lipase isn't pulling out enough triglycerides, then their level in our blood zooms up, increasing our risk for heart disease.1

Lots of sitting also increases the level of glucose, a type of sugar that our bodies use as an energy source, in our blood and makes our body resistant to our own natural insulin. That means our body has to work harder to get glucose into our cells, which sets us up for type 2 diabetes.2,3 Researcher and exercise physiologist Travis Saunders wrote, "In other words, an afternoon on the couch makes you measurably closer to having type 2 diabetes,"2 but he could just as well have been talking about the effects of spending an afternoon sitting at our work desk.

One of the methods for getting moving more frequently that I suggest in my column is to use a sit–stand desk,4 a standing desk, or treadmill desk, and alternate throughout the day between sitting and standing or between sitting and very slow walking. You can buy desks and equipment to do this, or you can put together your own setup. Here are links to vendors of desks and stands, plus links to articles and blogs posts on do-it-yourself arrangements:

  • Laptop stands from Techni Mobili: here and here
1Kravitz L. Too much sitting is hazardous to your health? [monograph on the Internet]. Available from: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/sittingUNM.html.

2Saunders T. Sitting for just a couple hours has measurable (and negative) health impact. Obesity Panacea 2012 April 4. Available from: http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2012/04/04/sitting-for-just-a-couple-hours-has-measurable-and-negative-health-impact/.

3Saunders TJ, Larouche R., Colley RC, Tremblay MS. Acute sedentary behaviour and markers of cardiometabolic risk: a systematic review of intervention studies. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2012;2012:712435. doi:10.1155/2012/712435. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3382951/.

4O'Moore-Klopf K. Why I'm a convert to standing at work. EditorMom 2012 June 1. Available from: http://editor-mom.blogspot.com/2012/06/why-im-convert-to-standing-at-work.html.

Friday, March 08, 2013

How to Ask for Advice

My friend and colleague Amy Schneider posted this to her Facebook profile and gave me permission to share it here. Her criterion is one I use in deciding whether I'll mentor a fellow editorial pro:

I'll never understand the posts I see online that go something like this: "I've just started my editorial services business. Does anyone have any advice on [how to run it]? Any tips greatly appreciated!" Cart before the horse, and in the age of Google especially flummoxing. Sure, we all ask for advice. But to start there? I wish I had had access to the wealth of information that's available now back when I started my business. I did most of my information gathering the old-fashioned way. I was barely using e-mail at the time. If you're going to be a self-employed editor (or, for that matter, self-employed in any field), your number one skill needs to be ... finding information on your own.

After you've done your research, there's a way to ask and get the information you want: Ask very specific questions, not the general "Any advice?" But when you give the impression that you haven't done any research yourself and want to learn, in a half hour, what it has taken a veteran years to learn (hat tip to my colleague Enid Rosenstiel for that description), that doesn't sit well. When I mentor people, I want them to be go-getters and show plenty of initiative. I don't want to spoon-feed them. If you don't develop the skill of doing your own legwork, you likely won't survive as a solopreneur.


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Final Step on the Journey

The editor of Journey of a Konkani Family
Hurray! It's here—Journey of a Konkani Family! In addition to editing the book, I wrote the about-the-book and about-the-author blurbs on the back cover, which I have reproduced here for your reading pleasure.

Book summary:
Being a citizen in a multicultural world requires a knowledge of history, from the personal to the global. But young Konkanis born and raised in the United States may be unfamiliar with the legends and customs of their Indian heritage, as well as with the story of the exile and dispersal of their ancestors from Goa beginning in the sixteenth century. For them, this true story of one family within the larger story of history will bring to life the language and community traditions of a culture they will want to get to know. Their guide in this engrossing tale, told with humor and compassion and packed with universal truths, is a man with roots in both the traditional Konkani world and the modern American world.

About the author:
Mulki Radhakrishna Bhat, a Konkani from Udupi on the west coast of Karnataka, grew up in India as part of a large, close family with rich cultural traditions. He immigrated to the United States as a young adult, navigated its very different cultural traditions, and had a long career as a nuclear physicist. He and his wife, Padma, who live on Long Island in New York, have one son, whose questions inspired him to tell the story of several generations of his family within the context of the India diaspora.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I am hugely grateful to my colleague Joan Pendleton, who subscribes to both the Freelance and Copyediting-L e-mail lists as I do, for referring the book's author to me when he was seeking an editor.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Mentea (Mentee Tea)

Tea from mentee

What a lovely surprise! These exotically scented teas just arrived, along with a sweet handwritten letter, from a grateful mentee of mine. She's made my day! And my office smells delicious!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book: Journey of a Konkani Family

Book cover: Journey of a Konkani FamilySeveral books that I have edited within the last couple of years are now being published. The latest one is Journey of a Konkani Family. If you're looking for an objective book review, you won't find it here, because I consider it an honor to have worked on the book and like it quite a bit. What you will find here, though, are reasons to pick up the book yourself.

Author Mulki Radhakrishna Bhat, a Konkani from Udupi on the west coast of Karnataka, grew up in India as part of a large, close family with rich cultural traditions. He immigrated to the United States as a young adult in the 1950s, navigated its very different cultural traditions, and had a long career as a nuclear physicist. He is now retired from Brookhaven National Laboratory. He and his wife, Padma, who live on Long Island in New York, have one son, whose questions inspired him to tell the story of several generations of his family within the context of the Indian diaspora.

Mulki spent more than a decade doing research in the United States and in India, interviewing many members of his extended family, and then writing the book. And such an engrossing story it is, one that is liberally sprinkled with transliterated Sanskrit* and that explains many traditions. Here is a portion from appendix 5 about the traditions involved in naming babies:

   There are elaborate rules for choosing a baby’s name that are based on the time of birth or on astrology and local customs (Kane 1974, 2:234–55; Pandey 1969, 78–85). The customs and traditions of names have changed significantly from the Vedic age to the present. Some of these are discussed in Appendix 3: “Atri Gotra, or Clan Atri.” The current orthodox [Gauda Sarasvat Brahmana] custom is to give five names: one based on the family deity, one on the month in which the baby was born, one on the baby’s asterism, a secret name, and a customary name for daily use. The secret name is known only to the parents until the age of initiation and is whispered in the baby’s ear. The secrecy is to prevent its use by any malefactor who would perform sorcery to harm the baby. Parents have to remember the secret name, which is revealed at the time of the upanayana. The custom of using twelve names at a barso is not required by codes of law and has grown to be a tradition in some families. Boys used to be named after their paternal grandfather, whether that ancestor was alive or dead. Nowadays, some of these names are considered old-fashioned and other more modern names are used. There is much greater freedom in choosing a name for a girl. Usually, girls are named after a flower, a desirable virtue, or one of the exemplary women of Hindu epics.

Having roots in both the traditional Konkani world and the modern American world, Mulki tells the humorous tale in chapter 5 of his first encounter with American football, the U.S. religion, as part of an orientation for Indian immigrants:

   Ohio State University (OSU), founded in 1870 as a land-grant university, had about 20,000 students when I joined in 1956. After being admitted for the fall semester, all of the foreign students gathered in a huge hall to get a general introduction to university life. ...

   Football at OSU was not just a collegiate sport; it was the religion, with all of the attendant rituals. Out of curiosity, I bought a season ticket the first year to find out what all of the fuss was about. Attendance at a couple of games left me totally unmoved. All I could make out of the action was that there were two groups of huge men who looked like gorillas in armor, and they fought for the possession of one football. Somehow all of the nuances of the game were lost on me. I decided that attending games was a waste of time, so I gave away my ticket to the first person who asked for it. The OSU Buckeyes were almost professional football players masquerading as students, according to some critics. The weekly highlight of the religious observance was the Saturday afternoon football game, in which the powerhouse Buckeyes usually annihilated any opposing team, to no one’s surprise. Every OSU victory was celebrated by the ringing of the Victory Bell (a gift of the classes of 1943, 1944, and 1954), weighing 2,420 pounds and residing 150 feet from the ground on the ramparts of the southeast tower of the OSU stadium, to announce to the faithful another triumph of good over evil. The believers claimed that on a clear day,the bell could be heard five miles away. The whole university, including all of its libraries, closed down for Saturday-afternoon home games. When a few of us requested that the university’s main library be kept open on Saturday afternoons, this “heretical depravity” caused quite a stir. The university did open the library, but this grave anomaly was not publicized. The Buckeyes’ archenemy was another football powerhouse—the University of Michigan Wolverines, at Ann Arbor, Michigan. The OSU–Michigan game, which usually ended the football season, was a drama of cosmic proportions—the ultimate battle between good and evil. Over the years, this game had acquired its own mythology, saga, and portion of the faithful. Presiding over all of these observances was the head football coach, Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes (1913–1987), now of blessed memory, a cult hero elevated to the semidivine status of guru by university alumni and the residents of Columbus. For most of the alumni, these games were the most important things that ever happened to them during their university years. Any other skills or knowledge they picked up was incidental or unintentional. I learned this from a letter I got from the OSU Alumni Association Club of New York City inviting me, as an alumnus, to attend one of their collegial meetings where movies of past Buckeye victories were to be shown, and of course they would all end with the joyous ringing of the Victory Bell and the singing of the Buckeyes’ fight song. These alumni wanted to savor every moment of past football victories, once more with feeling. It was truly an amazing bit of juvenile nostalgia. Unfortunately, as a nonbeliever in all rituals, I had to pass up this happy occasion.

Beyond the tales of his own experiences, Mulki recounts and discusses how events in history affected his family and the culture of his ancestors, making it clear that people are not that different from each other, wherever they may live.

I was fortunate to work with three colleagues on Journey. Stephen Tiano handled book design and layout; Dick Margulis handled book production, publication, and marketing; and Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy proofread the book.

Journey of a Konkani Family, by Mulki R. Bhat, from Ajjalkani Books. Trade paperback (ISBN: 978-0-9835757-1-9; US$34.95); 650 pages.

*Because the license that I purchased to use the transliteration typeface does not extend to being able to use it in this blog post, I have further transliterated the Sanskrit words in the book excerpts I have quoted here, using one of the typefaces available to me through Blogger.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Book Review—What Editors Want: An Author's Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing

Since 1991, I've been editing articles written for biomedical journals. I've done it as an employee of journal publishers, as a freelance editor with journals as my clients, and as a freelance editor with authors as my clients. And since 1991, I've wished that there was a reference work that taught authors about the process of getting their writing published in journals, so that instead of my having to teach them in bits and pieces, they could find all of the information in one place.

Thank goodness, Philippa J. Benson, PhD, and Susan C. Silver, PhD, have created exactly that: What Editors Want: An Author's Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing, just out from the University of Chicago Press. It's well organized, it's comprehensive, and it's authoritative. I fervently hope that medical schools and university science programs everywhere will make it part of their curriculum. Medical and science students are taught how to do research, and often how to report it, but they generally aren't taught about the publication process and how to navigate it. That makes the process unnecessarily frustrating both for researchers and for the editors-in-chief of journals—and hey, journal staff members and freelance manuscript editors too.

Before I tell you more about the book, I must disclose a few things that you may or may not believe predispose me toward writing a favorable review:

  • The University of Chicago Press sent me a free review copy of What Editors Want, at coauthor Benson's request.
  • I have a connection to Benson via Facebook. On Facebook and on Twitter, where I post a lot of publishing-related and science-related information, I have become friendly with Jennifer Kuhn, who provided administrative assistance to Benson during the process of writing the book and is now assistant managing editor for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. Kuhn connected me with Benson.
  • I adore the Chicago Manual of Style, published by the same press as What Editors Want, and I am guided by it for some of the book-length manuscripts that I edit.
  • I have been invited, by one of my longtime author-clients, to travel to China at some point and teach the young researchers in his hospital department about writing for publication. I plan to use What Authors Want to guide me in teaching those researchers.

The writing is straightforward and a pleasure to read. As an editor who works closely with a lot of authors outside the United States who are non-native speakers of English, I believe that the writing is accessible to authors with that background. I plan to highly recommend the book to all of my authors, whether they are native speakers of English or not. Benson and Silver even have a sense of humor, as evidenced by their advice in chapter 10, "Dealing with Decision Letters," about what authors should do if they receive either a rejection letter from their target journal or a decision letter from the journal noting that heavy revision of their research paper is required:

As mentioned earlier, you should never allow your emotions to influence your response to a rejection letter. Usually, a little time and the immediate ingestion of chocolate or alcohol will sooth[e] the pain and you will start to see what you can do to get the manuscript back on track. Do nothing for at least twenty-four hours or until any strong emotions have subsided.

Part of what makes this book so valuable for researchers who are navigating the U.S. publishing world for the first time is that Benson and Silver have been on both sides of the author–publisher relationship. Silver said, of the process of writing the book, "On a couple of occasions, we completely failed to take our own advice about the book. ... It took us a while to ... see that there were some useful points [made by one of the manuscript's reviewers]."

There's an aspect of the book that editorial professionals like me might find surprising, though it is minor compared with the importance of the book's content: Throughout the book, the word editor is capitalized. I wondered about that style choice, so I asked the authors about it. Silver explained that the University of Chicago Press "argued with us a lot about that because it's against their style. Our point was that in this book, [editors have] a starring role. It's their wants and needs that are being discussed. They were an important character in the book." Benson added, "We wanted to build the persona of the editor, and one of the ways to do that was through capitalizing [the word editor]. We had to pick our battles carefully with Chicago. We really were very mindful about the things we pressed hard for, and this was one of them."

The book takes readers through these issues:

  • Who cares what Editors want?
  • Changing perspective from author to Editor
  • Judging the newness of your science
  • Authorship issues
  • Choosing the right journal
  • Understanding impact factors
  • How to write a cover letter
  • Preparing for manuscript submission, or "What Editors wish you knew"
  • Who does what in peer review
  • Dealing with decision letters
  • Ethical issues in publishing
  • Trends in scientific publishing

The authors' coverage of those issues is thorough, and I did not find myself wishing that they had dealt with additional topics. All of their advice is on target, especially for would-be authors to look at issues of their target journals before definitely deciding to submit manuscripts to those journals, to read and follow in detail the author instructions of their target journals, to educate themselves about the permissions process, and to learn how the peer-review system works.

I found only one problem with the book: The cross-references in chapters 4 ("Authorship Issues") and 5 ("Choosing the Right Journal") to sidebars 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3 from chapter 8 ("Preparing for Manuscript Submission, or 'What Editors Wish You Knew' ") are incorrect. For example, in chapter 4 the authors refer readers to the sidebar on choosing a language-polishing service, and they note that this is sidebar 8.3, but it is actually sidebar 8.1.

Benson heads the firm PJB Consulting, where she is currently working with organizations such as PLoS One and the American Society for Nutrition on author education and publishing-services projects. She is also on the faculty of the Master of Professional Studies in Publishing program at George Washington University. Silver is editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published by the Ecological Society of America. She has held editorial positions at Academic Press and the British Dental Association and was editor of Biologist and The Lancet Oncology.

Benson and Silver told me that they got to know each other through annual meetings of such U.S. organizations as the Council of Science Editors and the Society for Scholarly Publishing. The book grew out of workshops that they later led together in China to teach, as Silver said, "young researchers how to navigate the Western journal landscape." Silver said that some colleagues wondered why she and Benson were "going all the way to China" to teach this material, saying, "We need this stuff here." Benson said that the content of the workshop evolved each time they taught it, and it occurred to her that it would be very helpful to have a textbook to use in teaching. Benson suggested to Silver that the two of them should write that textbook, and Silver, the more cautious of the pair, eventually agreed.

The authors have impressive credentials, but they told me that they thought it would be good to have input for the book from other authoritative sources in journal publishing. The pieces that those contributors wrote became helpful sidebars scattered throughout the book. "With the exception of one person, everybody [we asked] immediately agreed" to contribute to the book, Benson said. Here are some of the sidebar authors and their topics:

  • Carol Anne Meyer of CrossRef: "What authors need to know about CrossRef DOIs [digital object identifiers], CrossCheck, and CrossMark"
  • Monica Bradford, executive editor of Science: "Honesty in authorship"
  • Catriona MacCallum, senior editor of PLoS Biology and consulting editor of PLoS ONE: "Choosing open access for your paper"
  • Lyndon Holmes, president of Aries Systems: "Online manuscript submission and peer review systems"

The authors told me that they welcome feedback on the book because they would like to make any necessary corrections or additions to its next edition. You can write to them at whateditorswant@gmail.com. Silver added, "And if there are any additions [for the book], we can still include it in our teaching."

Without reservation, I recommend this book for those new to the publish-or-perish atmosphere of science, to those who work with science authors, and especially to those who teach them. There are already other resources available to teach researchers about good science writing, but What Editors Want is the first map that I know of through the U.S. science publication process. It's a map that no one who plays any role in science publishing should be without.

What Editors Want: An Author's Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing, by Philippa J. Benson and Susan C. Silver, from the University of Chicago Press. Available in several formats: cloth (ISBN 978-0-226-04313-5; US$55), paperback (978-0-226-04314-2; US$20), and e-book (978-0-226-04315-9; US$7 to US$20); 192 pages.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

We've All Had Days Like This

When the editor's brain is overheating from intense editing, she begins to glow brightly.

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