Why did you become an independent editor?
As a Cell editor, I really enjoyed working with authors and hearing about exciting new science. As an independent editor, I still get to experience these fun aspects, but without the drawback of constantly having to turn people away!
What do you like most about editing a paper?
I like the idea that I’m contributing to science by helping authors communicate their work effectively. And as nerdy as it may sound, I find it immensely satisfying to shape a paper into a compelling piece of writing!
What do you like least?
I must admit that I have a few little pet peeves. For example, every time I see the word “utilize,” I let out a small, discontented sigh. This is because most of the time, “use” will do just fine, and because I personally think “utilize” should only be used when referring to repurposed functions, as in “she utilized an overturned ice bucket to extinguish a bench fire.”
What is your top tip for writing the best paper?
The title and abstract are the first things editors and readers will see, so make sure that they clearly convey what’s most exciting about your paper. It’s easy to get bogged down in minutiae while putting together a manuscript, so take a step back and consider the broader context of your paper. Decide what major points you’d like to communicate and avoid excessively technical language. Once you’ve written them, take another step back. Do your major points come across clearly? Are you engaging as broad an audience as possible? Ask colleagues outside your field to read it to determine whether you’re making a compelling enough case.
What is the most common mistake people make when writing their paper?
People often don’t take full advantage of the Discussion section. Instead of just rehashing the results, this is an opportunity to zoom back out and cast your findings in a much broader context. Why is the work important? What new questions or areas of study does it open up? What are some of the caveats or limitations people should keep in mind?
When Cindy is not editing she enjoys making art: “This is actually what I spend most of my time doing now. There are so many parallels between art and science, and I enjoy experimenting with materials.” You can check out Cindy’s art here.