Why did you become an independent editor?
While I was at Cell, it became clear that there are unappreciated ‘best practices’ for writing a paper, a rebuttal, a revision, a cover letter – and for interacting with reviewers and editors. I saw independent editing as a way to help scientists navigate peer review, to demystify the process. I discovered that it’s the best way for me to help science and scientists succeed. I find that very rewarding.
What do you like most about editing a paper?
I love many things, but hands down I love learning and discovering something new. I suppose that’s the “icing on the cake”. I love being part of the ‘evolution’ of a paper or grant proposal, improving it so that it can reach and convince the most readers. I also love working with scientists directly, discussing how to preempt or address concerns from reviewers and journal editors.
What do you like least?
Not understanding the point of a paper. I of course immediately feel self-conscious and question whether my input will be of value. However, after handling hundreds of papers at Cell and now hundreds of papers at LSE, I have come to realize that not understanding the point is, in some ways, my point – it reveals when something is not being conveyed clearly. Ultimately I think it’s easy to forget that the objective of publishing your work is to share it with the scientific community – if everyone is engaged by and understands your paper, everyone benefits!
What is your top tip for writing the best paper?
Read it out loud. I heard this tip from Dr. Marian Walhout (U. Mass. Medical School) in a panel discussion about scientific writing, and it’s so true. If you, or even better someone else, reads a sentence or a paragraph out loud and it doesn’t “sound right”, then you know you should go back and rephrase. You can have Word read sections out loud. Another tip is to keep sentences short. A long one is ok once in a while, but generally: one point per sentence.
What is the most common mistake people make when writing their paper?
Not giving the reader enough credit. When you write the rationale for your work in the Introduction, give the complete picture, not just one side of the story. When you write your Results, ensure that the descriptions of the data match the figures, and that inferences are not overstated. When you write the Discussion, discuss contradictory findings (if relevant), and limitations. Never sweep something under the rug – readers (reviewers, editors) will often notice, and this will reduce their enthusiasm and trust in your work. On the other hand, accuracy in all these contexts gives the reader credit, and will positively affect the opinion of you and your work.
When Angela is not editing, she enjoys running, listening to eighties music, and hanging out with friends and family.