What Makes an Edit go Medical

Is medical editing any different from nonmedical? I would say yes. It may take longer, but it should go farther.

The time it takes to complete a rigorous job of medical editing comprises not only editing but also research, and sometimes plenty of it. My clients may well have their numbers right and their ducks aligned. But I have to gain some depth of understanding about the disease, drug, surgery, whatever is described in the material or I am at risk of "correcting" it wrong.

Whereas in nonscientific writing a certain amount of ambiguity may not be only tolerated but even sought, not so in medical and other scientific realms. And the only way to dispel ambiguity is to understand what the writer is attempting to say. When the writer is not at one's elbow understanding may be sought from a limited number of sources: From data provided—the tables and figures included—and from research that will probably include the paper's references, as well as from one's own stores of knowledge.

This process is amplified whenever the client is not a native English speaker. Particularly in these cases, even after the first reading of the paper I may not yet have a handle on what I don't yet understand.

This is how studies intended for publication differ from lighter fare, and when the material has been written by people whose first language is not English, I had better be certain that I know what they mean to express.

Edit Orange.

In a paper in which the Chinese authors treated pulmonary hypertension and thrombi, for example, at first reading I thought I might be fairly familiar with the subject because in a fairly recent project I described in great detail, for surgeons in residence, surgical procedures to the heart. Aha!, I thought, this shouldn't prove too unfamiliar; I know the workings of that organ. Well, I had to get more familiar with the procedures they were describing before I realized that, although pulmonary hypertension and thrombi were involved, it was in the context of sequelae of hemodialysis grafts and their clearance.

I won't go into excruciating detail about the amount of time and research it took to acquaint me enough with the subject to be able intelligently to edit it (research sometimes being simply Googling a term like 'tissue doppler image' to see if 'Doppler imaging' might be as appropriate; but of course more often requiring some amount of inspection, comparison, digestion, rejection, acceptance, etc), the preceding parenthesed material excluded, of course.

But I'll give you one more example from that paper, in which appeared the unexpanded abbreviation AV. After consulting my dictionary resources (and my own familiarity with the heart organ) I expanded the letters to atrioventricular. Some time and reading later I realized and corrected my mistakeThe correct term was arteriovenous. , but that would never have happened had I not come to a deeper level of understanding about hemodialysis access.

In editing I also consult the references (even when necessary tracking some down) and tables (ascertaining, for example, that a certain significant stat is between groups rather than within one group, a critical distinction for any published paper that is not always clear from the text).

(Aside: In one interlude I even acted as on-line editor of a mystery novel penned by a retired homicide detective who had worked on cold cases. I took his case because of his self-promoting skills, not realizing at the time that even those may not have been sufficient to enliven a style so well reflecting the job title. Like medical editing but for quite different reasons, this level of edit also went deep.)

Of course I do not go to such an extent when it is not needed. But even when the author is a native English speaker, it is well to clear up any ambiguity that has crept in before the journal editor ever sees it.

One cold case

The Clock is Ticking           

even in Boulder!