Category Archives: Scientific Editing

Don’t omit needed words

In a review article I was reading recently to get some background information for an editing job, I encountered a sentence that I couldn’t decipher even after having read it several times. It serves as  a good example of how omitting words can lead readers down the garden path to a misinterpretation, or several possible misinterpretations. Here’s the sentence:

The cytosol contains enzymes that channel reducing equivalents from NADPH to small thiol-containing species and thiol/disulfide oxidoreductase enzymes (e.g., glutathione and thioredoxin) to reverse disulfide formation and other oxidative modifications of proteins. Continue reading Don’t omit needed words

Podcasts, MOOCs, and other online educational resources for science editors

My postgraduate training was rather narrowly focused on synthetic organic chemistry, but in my 20 years as a science editor, I’ve often been called upon to edit material outside this specific area of expertise. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about, for example, environmental chemistry and materials science simply by frequently editing papers in those fields. However, the relatively recent advent of podcasts, MOOCs (massively open online courses), and webcasts has allowed me to more systematically expand my knowledge of, and keep current in, other areas of interest to me—such as nanotechnology, bioinformatics, biochemistry/chemical biology, cell biology, immunology, virology, and statistics. By familiarizing myself with the basic concepts and standard terminology in these fields, I’ve been able to speed up my editing, ask more-informed questions, and provide more value to my clients. Continue reading Podcasts, MOOCs, and other online educational resources for science editors

What’s the difference between “extensively” and “intensively”?

What’s the difference between studying a subject extensively and studying it intensively, between doing extensive research and intensive research? It seems like a simple enough question, one that could easily be answered by consulting a dictionary. I consulted four: Merriam-Webster Unabridged (3rd ed), The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th ed), and The American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed) .* Here’s what I found:
Continue reading What’s the difference between “extensively” and “intensively”?

Typographical conventions for mathematics

In the scientific manuscripts I edit, certain deviations from the generally accepted typographical conventions for mathematical text crop up frequently enough that I thought I would discuss a few of them in this post. First, let’s look at some of the basic conventions: Continue reading Typographical conventions for mathematics

Compound adjectives formed with “adsorbed” and “immobilized”

Compound adjectives constructed from a noun plus the past participle of a verb are used frequently in English. Consider, for example, the sentence

The skiers raced down the snow-covered slopes.

Here, “snow-covered” is a compound adjective constructed from the noun “snow” and the past participle of the verb “to cover.” The compound describes the slopes; the slopes were covered. Covered with what? Covered with snow.

Here’s another:

The bishop placed the jewel-encrusted crown on the queen’s head.

“Jewel-encrusted” is a compound adjective modifying “crown”; the crown was encrusted with jewels.

Now let’s look a couple of analogous sentence from the scientific literature.

The surface-adsorbed nitrogen was quantified by means of a transient-response experiment.

Here, “surface-adsorbed” is a compound adjective constructed from the noun “surface” and the past participle of the verb “to adsorb.” The compound modifies “nitrogen; the nitrogen was adsorbed. Where was it adsorbed? On the surface. Continue reading Compound adjectives formed with “adsorbed” and “immobilized”