Years editing: 4
Job title: Part-time freelance medical writer and editor
Job description: Writes patient education material; copyedits grant proposals and scientific manuscripts
How did you get your current job?
My first copyediting job came from a listing on the job board of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). Currently, the majority of my medical writing gigs come through Dragonfly Editorial. I connected with the owner on LinkedIn and have been one of their freelance medical writers for the past year.
I’ve also gotten writing and editing gigs through the professional network that I’ve built over the past six years.
What copyediting training do you have, and what positions have you held?
I’ve taken copyediting and science writing courses. I’ve taken the Writing in the Sciences course on Coursera, copyediting.com’s Copyediting for ESL Authors, and grant-writing courses from the university where I work.
My experience has come from freelance editing jobs: scientific grant proposals and manuscripts, training modules, resumes, and personal statements. For editing large grant proposals or manuscripts, I find it useful to have the specific aims page or abstract printed. This gives me an easy way to refer back to the main conclusions and most important information as I proceed through the document. I also keep a running list of abbreviations and use the Microsoft Word search and replace feature regularly to ensure consistency.
DOING THE JOB
Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
As I aim to grow my freelance career, I am beginning to learn more about marketing and maintaining a strong social media presence. Right now, I’m reading The Fearless Freelancer: How to Thrive in a Recession, by Lori De Milto. It offers great information how to find your niche as a freelancer and how to develop a client-focused LinkedIn profile and website.
I’d also like to learn more about using graphic design to make science communication more accessible, which would complement my skills as a medical writer and editor.
Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
I use Grammarly to double-check for simple grammar mistakes, extra spaces, and missing punctuation. But I use my discretion, as Grammarly isn’t always accurate when used on scientific materials.
COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS
Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I have a network of writers and editors in the AMWA community. I’ve been a member of AMWA for the past four years. It has a helpful forum where members can post editing questions. AMWA is a very welcoming community of people who are generous with their time and knowledge. I’m lucky to live in an area with a very active AMWA community. Our local networking group meets monthly (virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic) and has been invaluable.
Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I think that everyone, regardless of their chosen career, should be open to networking and sharing what they do with others. Building relationships across disciplines helps to highlight careers that are often not completely understood. Many people may not truly understand what a copyeditor does and how copyeditors may benefit a variety of businesses. Keeping an open line of communication will help to solve that problem.
How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Authors can be very defensive about their writing, and as a writer, I know the feeling. If the issue is somewhat of a personal preference, I think it’s best to leave it alone. But if something absolutely must be changed, providing a good rationale for the change may help the author to be more receptive.
Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others?
I’m not aware of any biases that have kept me from progressing in my freelance career. I’m grateful to have always felt welcome in the spaces I’ve been in regardless of my race and gender.
Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
In general, I think that the science community needs to educate graduate students on the variety of careers that are available outside of academia and normalize the choice not to pursue a long-term research career. As students are exposed to editing as a career choice, the diversity in the field will continue to grow.
Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
My longest-lasting hobbies are reading and cooking. I’m also taking Spanish lessons right now. For a while, I was into calligraphy, but I haven’t picked up my pen and nib lately. I’d love to get back into it and maybe pick up floral design.
What resources would you share with fellow editors?
The must-have resource for a medical editor is the American Medical Association Manual of Style.