Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Free Writing in the Sciences MOOC

A free online course called Writing in the Sciences starts on Tuesday, 9/2. I have no experience with this instructor or MOOCs at Stanford, so I can’t provide a personal recommendation, but it looks like it’d be a great experience. The topics include everything from crafting better sentences and paragraphs to how to do a peer review. If you take the course, please let me know what you think of it!

Reading cutting-edge papers is so fun!

Getting the chance to read cutting-edge research before even peer reviewers do is such a treat. Of course I would never breach confidentiality (see my standard terms), but sometimes I really want to tell the world about an exciting paper I’m reading. Today is one such day. I guess you’ll just have to wait until it’s published! ūüôā

Why I <3 repeat customers

I love working with repeat customers. It’s so gratifying to know that my work was valuable¬†enough to someone that they want to work with me again! It’s a great confidence booster that I really am doing a good job and serving my clients well.

I also relish the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with my clients over time. Today someone I’ve worked with multiple times (I won’t say who, but you can find him somewhere on the testimonials page!) called to get an estimate request on¬†another project. I’d previously done basic editing of one of his journal manuscripts and substantive editing of his CV, and now I’ll be helping with developmental editing of a few job application cover letters.¬†Because we were already familiar with each other’s writing and editing styles, I could confidently quote him an appropriate fee and he could confidently assess that it was a fair value for the help he’d receive.

As I outline on the “Why Choose Science Refinery?” page,¬†I go¬†beyond traditional copyediting of journal articles, so this type of ongoing client relationship is common for me. As another¬†example, I could help you craft an abstract to submit to a conference, design the poster once you‚Äôre accepted, write¬†the journal article after you get great feedback on your poster, and put related work together in your dissertation.

If you haven’t yet hired Science Refinery for any editing projects, never fear! As much as I love my repeat customers, I still have plenty of time and attention¬†that I can devote to new clients, too. So contact me today and let’s get started. I know you’ll love working with Science Refinery so much that you’ll become a repeat customer soon too.

20% discount on IMFAR poster editing and talk consultations!

IMFAR, the International Meeting for Autism Research, is starting in just two weeks! If you are like most scientists, you probably haven’t¬†printed off your poster or created your talk yet. In fact, I hear tell that some people (I’m sure not you!) don’t even start making them until the day before they leave for a conference. Well, fear not. There is still plenty of time for Science Refinery to help AND I’m offering a 20% discount on all IMFAR projects booked now through Monday, 5/12.

As described on the types of editing page, if you choose developmental editing, I can help you right from the beginning of the process by designing the whole poster for you. Other options include substantive editing (where I work on your draft to¬†make each sentence as effective as possible and improve word choice) and basic editing (where I work on your almost-final draft to do a spot check and make sure there are no errors). If you’re giving a talk instead of or in addition to participating in a poster session, I can also help you improve your presentation (as noted on the range of projects I work on page). So contact me today to see how we could best work together and get you that 20% discount!

This year’s IMFAR is in Atlanta, GA. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been two years since I attended the 2012 IMFAR in Toronto! I presented two posters. You can see them below and read the accompanying handouts here: #1, #2. I also wrote my first blog post ever about the experience. Crazy. If you are going to IMFAR this year, I’d love to hear about it!

Prenatal influences on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative evidence from a twin study

Prenatal influences on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative evidence from a twin study

Short Sensory Profile (SSP) in families with at least one autistic twin

Short Sensory Profile (SSP) in families with at least one autistic twin

Thoughts on the complementary values of paper and e-books

Digital readers, rejoice! To Kill a Mockingbird will newly be available in e-book format on author Harper Lee’s 88th birthday this July. I learned of the news from a post by my friend Ashley, a teacher at LePort Schools, this morning. In her post, Ashley beautifully described the distinct, complementary values of both paper and e-books:

These days, I almost exclusively read content digitally, whether through e-books, online subscriptions, or blog posts. Besides one magazine I receive in hard copy, it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a physical book or newspaper. I find digital content¬†so much more convenient and I’m much more likely to actually read it. When two of my friends wanted me to read Love in the Time of Cholera so we could all discuss it together, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find an e-book copy of it.

But when one of those friends lent me her well-loved paperback, I was thrilled. I was surprised at how much joy it brought me to hold a book in my hands and I’m so excited to¬†read it.

So I absolutely agree with Ashley’s post: both paper and e-book formats are valuable in distinct, complementary, beautiful ways.

Do you prefer one or the other consistently? Or maybe you like reading non-fiction on a device and fiction in a physical book (or some other combination)? Have we missed out on any key values you enjoy about your favorite format?

My Sudden Clarity Clarence moment about PowerPoint

Today I had a Sudden Clarity Clarence moment:

Yeah, this has been noted by others before, and I’ve had the general sense for a while now, but it only crystallized into a conscious thought for me today. Here’s how.

It seems like lately I’ve been getting a lot of jobs that involve more than just my typical copyediting of scientific journal articles (like helping¬†a student prepare for a Rhodes Scholar interview¬†and working with political candidates to improve their brochures). If I keep making blog posts reminding people that the range of projects I work on is vast, perhaps I need to update¬†how I pitch myself throughout the site in the first place… (Yes, this and a few other site updates are already on my to do list–stay tuned!)

Today I had the opportunity to work on another such “unconventional” project with Dr. Nestor Matthews. Last summer I analyzed and reviewed his recorded flipped classroom lectures and I’m always grateful to earn repeat business from satisfied customers. This time he wanted me to talk with students in his Psych 100 class during one of their writing workshops about what it’s like to be a professional editor and writer. Through the magic of Skype, I was able to be right there with them. I had a great time sharing my perspectives about science writing, majoring in psychology, and more with the students.

We both agreed from the start that we wanted more of an informal discussion than a formal¬†lecture, so making a PowerPoint presentation was out of the question. I still needed a way to organize my thoughts and generally prepare what I was going to say, though, so I made¬†a simple outline in Word. That’s when the realization struck: most academics (my previous self definitely included) use PowerPoint for their talks as an alternative to writing a simple outline!

The entry on creating outlines from the University of Richmond Writing Center does a great job of detailing the hows and whys of outlining and I’m sure most of you smarties already have a firm grasp on that, so I won’t bother recreating the wheel here. And if you need convincing that talks should be accompanied by¬†slides that are mostly visual¬†(e.g., pictures, graphs) rather than word-based, let me know and I will point you to any¬†of the¬†innumerable sources¬†out there about how most people seriously abuse PowerPoint. One of my favorites from my¬†professional development course on scholarly communication¬†is a presentation on SlideShare called “Death by PowerPoint.”

Now I’m not at all saying that PowerPoint is useless or bad. I’ve reviewed some alternative presentation programs (Bunkr and Presenter, which I just learned has been rebranded as visme), but it is definitely possible to make a beautiful, useful PowerPoint presentation.

My bottom line here is that if you’re giving a talk (teaching a lecture, demonstrating a product, whatever!) that does call for some kind of visual aids, under no circumstances should you subject the audience to a presentation that is basically your own outline on some slides!¬†Outlining should be a private first step, not the public final product.

The 5 Phases of the Writing Process

My friend Alex Epstein is in the process of writing a book. Many of his fans are eagerly awaiting its November release, so he often treats us to tidbits about the writing process. One of his latest was the following:

Does your writing process contain these same steps and do they carry the same emotions for you? If not, what do you do differently? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

A love letter to my clients from an appreciative editor.

Lately I’ve been especially loving my job. Now that I have plenty of real world experience under my belt, I’m more confident than ever in my editing and business skills. In short, things here at Science Refinery are clicking.

I also have been really feeling the love for all my authors recently. I think it’s only fair to share my appreciation publicly. So clients, this one’s for you.

Thanks. From me and Zach Galifianakis.

Not only do you help keep a roof over my head and food on my table, but you teach me so many new things every day. How many people get to learn about factors affecting hotel efficiency one moment and what WASP-1 (2-(2,7-diethoxy-9H-fluoren-9-ylidene) hydrazinecarboximidamide) does the next? Getting to read about cutting edge discoveries (before anyone else!) as my job is a privilege for a curious mind like mine.

I have a special spot in my heart for all my authors writing in English when it’s their second (or third! or fourth! or more!) language. I am so unbelievably impressed by your ability to communicate your science to the world in a language not native to you. As a typical American, I know some Spanish, but not nearly enough to compose a piece of technical writing.

Beyond earning my admiration, you also unintentionally teach me a little about your own language along the way. I’ve gotten to the point where I can make a pretty good guess whether the authors of a manuscript are from China or Russia or Brazil, for example. So thanks for making me feel like Sherlock. And when you do get tripped up on idioms and specialized vocabulary,¬†I get to enjoy a moment of amusement ūüôā

So to all my clients, thank you for entrusting me with your baby. It truly brings me joy to help you communicate your science so you can get back to doing the science you love.

Catch-up post of recent Facebook updates

So I’ve been pretty terrible about keeping up this blog recently. I could list off some excuses like the holidays, new obligations, and prioritizing actual editing over writing about editing, but the truth is I’ve just let this slip by. I won’t promise a dramatic change (the new obligations and priorities are actually real), but I am going to recommit to posting here semi-regularly.

In the meantime, here are some updates from the Facebook and Twitter pages:

2/20/14: I ‚̧¬†Google Ngram viewer. “Should I change this author’s use of ‘indispensable for’ to ‘indispensable to’?” Rather than deciding blindly, I can check the data first! Click to see what I found then guess what I chose to do.

2/12/14: I just spontaneously shouted “I love this paper!” Good thing I work from home :).¬†It’s a good day to be an editor.

2/11/14: Reading the methods of a paper that used HPLC is daunting and makes me glad I quit chemistry after one semester of organic. (Luckily I still know enough to be able to confidently, competently edit it after several passes.)

2/6/14:¬†I’ve been doing mostly journal articles lately, but today I am editing¬†a grant application. Nice change of pace! ūüôā

2/5/14:¬†My favorite error in this ESL paper so far: talking about the normally distributed “residues” (instead of residuals) ūüôā

1/10/14:¬†I’m editing a paper about altitude sickness and the author just referred to “seal level.” Made me think of the Seal as a Seal meme.

12/18/13:¬†I’m editing a paper by authors whose native language is Korean. There were some unique errors, which led me to Googling to learn a little something about Korean syntax. Wikipedia taught me that Korean is generally considered a “language isolate” (meaning it has “no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages”). No wonder there were some unusual mistakes when the authors translated their ideas to English! Cool.

12/4/13:¬†Pandora is blasting my holiday shuffle, I get to gaze out at beautiful snow, there’s tasty tea in my mug, and I’m editing a very interesting paper on IQ psychometrics. All I need is a fireplace and I’d be happy as a clam at high tide ūüôā

When calling the dentist is more meaningful than just calling the dentist

I feel awesome.

Sometimes I procrastinate on tasks I’m opposed to in some way but nonetheless have to do. For example, I had to call my new dentist to sort out an insurance matter. It’s something that shouldn’t have been an issue at all, so it just ticked me off. So I kept avoiding it. So I felt stressed when I got another bogus bill for it.

Today I finally called and dealt with it. Of course, it was trivial and easy. I spent WAY more time and energy stewing about how I shouldn’t have to do it and worrying about what would happen than it took to actually just call. This is the case 99% of the time for me.

I am learning and getting better. With help from kicks in the butt from my mom and husband, I don’t fall into this trap nearly as often as I used to. I just need to remember how good it feels to finally get over myself and do it. When the weight is lifted off my shoulders, I feel like this:


So what are you putting off these days? Is there anything you’re building up in your head that’s actually simple? Could you tackle it right now to join me in feeling free and accomplished today?

PS– The above picture was taken at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI. I just found out it was voted one of the Top 10 Most Inspiring Gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine!