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By Olga Sushinsky
If you’ve ever thought about pursuing a career in medical editing, you might want to familiarize yourself with the specifics of the industry. At first, it may appear daunting, but learning this craft is perfectly doable with a little help from print and online resources, such as medical dictionaries and industry-specific style guides. If you do come from a science background, the odds of success are in your favour, but if not, you can still master medical editing. Regardless of your level of expertise, it is important to have these resources on hand.
The American Medical Association’s AMA Manual of Style
Most likely, you will be provided with log-in access to the AMA website when you receive a medical editing gig. However, it’s also a good idea to invest in a physical copy of the AMA Manual of Style if you plan to edit medical documents long-term. It is so much easier to look up the treatment of terms, grammar points, and other peculiarities of medical writing in the physical book. The price for the book is on the higher end, but this investment might be worthwhile if you hope to make a career in medical editing. If you cannot afford the book, you can still find a few free resources on medical editing online. The School of Pharmacy at Concordia University Wisconsin provides a document on citing references according to AMA style.
Editor for Life: Jeanne McKane, freelance editor, co-chair of the Editors Canada Certification Steering Committee, and 2017 recipient of the Lee d’Anjou Volunteer of the Year award
Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster
A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.
Jeanne, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.
I have been an editor for 21 years (gulp), and a freelancer for 16 of those (whoa). My first-ever paid work in editing was as a proofreader for a small company that publishes travel trade magazines. It was spectacular training ground: an endless supply of proofreading, and a production manager who wanted an apprentice, so I was able to learn a great deal about print production. From there, I worked in publications at the Canadian Diabetes Association, and when another staff member left, I suddenly became managing editor of their medical journal! I didn’t know much about the world of journal publishing, so it was a real trial by fire, but that job turned into another job in medical editing, which led to a freelance career specializing in medical and science editing, and I absolutely love it. Now I work with government, non-profit organizations, journal publishers, corporations and individual authors to improve the quality of science communication. My favourite thing is to help people prepare their journal articles for publication, particularly people whose first language is not English. Sort of an odd career path for someone who studied English, Celtic Studies, and Scottish Literature, but you never know where life will take you!
My work in science editing got me very interested in certification, because I work so much with doctors, nurses, and people in other regulated professions. Early in my career, I was very glad to find the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, which runs a certification program for science editors, so I took their exam as soon as I was eligible. Not long after that, Editors Canada launched its certification program, and I jumped at the chance to do that, too. I have appreciated the chance to test my editorial skills against the standards set by two national-level organizations. As well, both certifications have been really valuable in my everyday work: they allow me to present myself to clients as a specialist in another field, which creates a very different working relationship. (more…)