Why did you become an independent editor?
While I was at Cell, it became clear that there are nuanced ‘best practices’ for writing a paper, a rebuttal, a revision, a cover letter – and for interacting with reviewers and editors. I saw independent editing as a way to help prepare scientists for peer review, to demystify the process a bit. I discovered that it’s the best way for me to help science and scientists succeed. I find that very rewarding.
What do you like most about editing a paper?
I love many things, but hands down I love learning and discovering something new. I suppose that’s the “icing on the cake”. I love being part of the ‘evolution’ of a paper or grant proposal, improving it so that it can reach and convince the most readers. I also love working with scientists directly, discussing how to preempt or address concerns from reviewers and journal editors.
What do you like least?
When I can’t immediately come up with the best phrase or word for the situation. I try to flag an issue and come back to it later, but I feel like “The Princess and the Pea” until it is resolved.
What is your top tip for writing the best paper?
Read it out loud. I heard this tip from Dr. Marian Walhout (U. Mass. Medical School) in a panel discussion about scientific writing, and it’s so true. If you, or even better someone else, reads a sentence or a paragraph out loud and it doesn’t “sound right”, then you know you should go back and rephrase. Another tip is to keep sentences short. A long one is ok once in a while, but generally: one point per sentence.
What is the most common mistake people make when writing their paper?
Not being entirely accurate. When you write the rationale for your work in the Introduction, give the complete picture, not just one side of the story. When you write your Results, ensure that the descriptions of the data match the figures, and that inferences are not overstated. When you write the Discussion, discuss contradictory findings (if relevant), and limitations. Never sweep something under the rug – readers (reviewers, editors) will often notice, and this will reduce their enthusiasm and trust. On the other hand, accuracy in all these contexts gives the reader credit, and will positively affect the opinion of you and your work.
When Angela is not editing, she enjoys running, listening to eighties music, and hanging out with friends and family.