The art of editing

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
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 Dr. Phillips is a Professor of Radiology, Director of Head and Neck Imaging, at Weill Cornell Medical College, NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. He is a member of the Applied Radiology Editorial Advisory Board.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.

—Wernher von Braun

Budding young radiology residents are called upon at my shop to do some of the good work. Academic work. Write a paper. I think this is a good thing, and overall I think it helps them. You know, it helps to “build strong bones and teeth.” Sharpens minds. And, it lets them get a feeling of what academics is like, so they can promptly finish their residencies and go into private practice. No, I kid with you.

At some point in my budding career, I thought academics was the thing. It was all I wanted to do. I’m a bit crazy that way—just a touch of OCD. I helped with a few papers, got a few published, saw my name on the line after the title with my last name first, and then my initials, and was on my way. At first, it seemed pretty easy. That was a false sense of ease. There are these people, you see, who stand in the way. They are called editors.

I have experienced the glee of a first time out-of-the-block, “just correct the names” acceptance. It is like nothing else in the world. I have also experienced the depression of a first time “don’t ever send this paper to us again, or to anyone we know” rejection letter, as well. Most fall into the category of revision and revision, and god help me, another revision request, and finally everyone is exhausted, and it’s published because there is nothing else to do with it.

I like most editors. They are out for the common good. They want you to be understood and be correct, and they want their publication to be famous—and they don’t mind making you nuts in the meantime. So, you revise. You read the reviewer’s comments, and you revise some more, and you revise yet again. You rewrite it. And rewrite it again. Whew, didn’t they just tell me to put it back the way I had it to start with? And yet you acquiesce and rewrite it.

I’m pretty happy getting things in print, still, so I don’t throw too much of a fit. I have friends who stand and curse in the hallway. Others get depressed and quiet. So far, not a single one has gone postal, but there are a few who are the likely candidates to do so.

All in the name of science. Mahalo. 

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The art of editing.  Appl Radiol. 

June 04, 2013

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