I was having a light-hearted conversation about editing the other day with my friend. She is a sociologist who studies race. We were going back and forth about the capitalization of “white” and “black.” We parried and challenged each other a little, all in good spirit. She is a grad student and said “well, I guess we’ll have to see whether journals make me lower-case ‘Black’ in my articles.” At first I told her they definitely would, because “Black” isn’t APA style. But then I reconsidered.
Journals tend to enforce certain styles. For example, I changed all times to Universal Times (UTC) as per journal style for my last journal job. There was no dissent. But then I started to think about what I was saying. Whether “basin” is lowercased or uppercase is not a very emotional decision, even for me, and I like to make editing style choices to be as emotional as possible. What can I say? It keeps me amused.
But capitalizing “Black” and lowercasing (or not) “White” are very political, sensitive decisions. There is a lot of thought, consideration, history, and life experience that goes into those style decisions. I told my friend that I wasn’t sure how a humanities journal would deal with that. We laughed about how “basin” could be an emotional decision, cracked a bunch of jokes, and then went on with our lives.
Today, I am editing an article about brain tumors. My father died of a brain tumor twelve years ago. I am emotional about the heads “case study 4”. What would my father have been like as a case study? Who was the person whose brain was analyzed in the case study? Did they have grieving children? Did they live? Did they have experiences like my father? Were they confused? In pain?
This is maybe the second time in my life I’ve been unable to separate the personal from the professional in a science article. Usually my science articles are dispassionate, technical, and the drama is all about my authors’ terrible tables, not about my damn father.
What puts you off your game?