Australasian Medical Writers Association 2014 Annual Conference: an Editor's Perspective

How could I resist a conference titled 'Overdoing it: tests, treatments & tonics'? Did I deserve to go though? I tested myself. Had I been overdoing it? Yes. Did I need treatment for that? Yes.

In my work as a science and medical editor, I don't write much (rewrite maybe), but the program promised much for editors. I was attracted by the pull of luminaries such as linguist Professor Pam Peters DE, so my laptop and I headed off to Sydney at the end of August.

In the pouring rain, we joined about 50 medical editors and writers from around Australia and New Zealand for two days of workshops, presentations and, of course, networking over drinks and dinners.

Prof. Peters presented the most entertaining grammar and style workshop that I've had the pleasure to attend - even though she had the Saturday 8.30 am slot, the morning after the conference dinner. The pre-workshop warm up was the dry task of parsing a paragraph from a typical academic journal article. Then, Prof. Peters delighted the room with data showing the English language in action.

Presenting the participants with word usage data from, for example, the Corpus of Global Web-based English, she facilitated a discussion about subject-verb agreement and punctuation after initial adjuncts (introductory phrases). If we were to take the descriptivist route, then 'data is' is already here. How many style guides enforce clunky phrases such as 'data point' to refer to the singular? It was refreshing to discuss such issues with editors and writers from various industries, including journalism, academia and medical writing agencies.

After eye-opening conference sessions on topics of great interest in journal publishing, such as competing interests, the conference finished with a session on how to earn a crust writing or editing.

After two days off work in the company of like-minded wordsmiths, I felt invigorated to go back to overdoing it. What a tonic.

Davina Dadley-Moore