Copyediting Science

Editing science when you’re a former English major such as myself is a bit like trying to needlepoint when you aren’t wearing your glasses. It’s confusing and difficult and makes no sense. You’re editing in a foreign language, but you’re still expected to correct grammar. It’s all about recognizing patterns. If you’re lucky enough to edit one field for a while, you begin to learn the subtleties. Least squares method really is “squares” not “square,” and don’t even ask what that means. You learn that Messier objects are uppercase but gauss is lowercase as a unit, even though both are proper names. You begin to suss out when the author is speaking science and when the author is speaking in ungrammatical sentences. It’s a sense you develop through repetition.

But sometimes the scientists make it difficult for you. My example today is Tukey’s HSD test. I remember “Tukey” because I always have to make sure it isn’t Turkey. (My brain is like this.) I know anything with “test” is statistical, but that’s all I know. I look up HSD only to find out it means honestly significantly different. Really? This is bad as the expansion for RING. (Note: one of my relatives is a biologist and he confirmed that RING was real. He asked me what my favorite amino acid is. When I told him I didn’t know, we came up with cysteine, for reasons that might make sense to those of you who know me.)

Tell me something funny about your day/week/life. (Note: I need cheering up because my stupid cat thinks she should be fed nothing but caviar and is going on a hunger strike.)



10 responses to “Copyediting Science

  1. The 1812 War lasted until December of 1814.

    That completely boggled the minds of two of our younger patrons and their mother, who were asking about a battle which was fought in September of 1814, and assumed that we didn’t understand their request.

    And then they asked for photographs.

    I love my job so, so much.

  2. I pass a church on my way home from work every day. They change the notice board weekly, and at the moment it says, “When under attack by a group of clowns, go for the juggler.”

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