doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: editing

Once a copy editor, always a copy editor

Having worked as a professional copy editor, grammatical mistakes make my hair stand on end. Especially when they’re printed on signs in public places. I’ve never actually done anything about this, other than to internally cringe. Until this past week.

Below are photos I encountered on a handwritten notice advising that a drinking fountain was out of order. I immediately noticed the error in the message. I started to step away, but felt drawn to return. To fix what was wrong. I pulled a pen out of my pocket and quickly did just that. My handiwork is subtle, matching in ink color so as not to draw too much attention to itself. My goal was not to shame the writer, but simply to correct the mistake.

I’ve included before and after photos to illustrate my good grammatical deed.

Before / After:

I left the drinking fountain with a smile on my face, feeling I had done the right thing. Feeling I had done a necessary thing.

Ah, saving the world, one grammatical error at a time …

An abstract challenge

I first saw my name in print in the fall of 1999. It was my first semester of college. I had taken a journalism class because my advisor told me not to. When I fell in love with reporting and writing, my journalism TA hooked me up at the school newspaper. My first article was a feature on cider making at the local apple orchard.

That was 17 years ago. It’s still a thrill to publish — to share my written work with the world. These days, most of that takes place via this blog or the online magazine where I write a monthly column. Most of my work consists of personal essays.

But last week, I submitted a different sort of writing — a research abstract based on my work in rural Uganda this past summer. If the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) accepts my abstract, I will present a poster at the organization’s national conference in San Antonio, Texas, in May 2017.

I do have another scientific publication — a secondary authorship on a paper from the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) lab where I worked for a semester while taking my medical school prerequisites. But this would be my first time as a first author. And this would be my first foray into the world of clinical research.

Acceptance here is by no means a guarantee. And my topic is somewhat outside the typical AGS fare, so I’m not holding my breath. Even if I don’t get accepted, going through the abstract writing process was still a wonderful experience. Distilling all that work into fewer than 2,650 characters was something else. That taxed even my editorial expertise.

All that said: *fingers crossed.* I’ll find out by February.

Once a copy editor, always a copy editor

You know you’re a still copy editor at heart when

… You’re reading a neuroanatomy textbook, trying to learn about the vestibular system, and come across an antibiotic spelled in two different ways on the same page. Not only do you notice this, but you feel the need to investigate: gentamicin vs. gentamycin? The former is the correct spelling (with the “i”), according to multiple online sources including the Mayo Clinic. But this isn’t enough. You now need to grasp the roots of this mistake. So you dig deeper, and discover that the misspelling is somewhat understandable given that other antibiotics — streptomycin, neomycin, and tobramycin — spell that syllable with a “y” rather than an “i.” And actually, gentamicin (with an “i”) is sold under the brand name Garamycin (with a “y”). After all this, you are mostly satisfied, except that you have no power to correct the error.

Following such a lengthy digression, this is your final, perplexed thought: “Now what was I reading again?”