We have a couple acres here in Washington and have carved out trails for our boys through the woods. I was thinking this morning that writing and editing share some commonalities with informed trail-breaking. This might be a stretch, but indulge me for a minute.

When creating trails, you begin with a goal in mind: hacking your way to a neighbor’s house, for instance. Or around the pond. Then you eye the woods for natural trails carved by deer or coyotes. The underbrush might be less dense in those areas. You think about topography – staying higher rather than lower means the wet winters won’t wash them out. When I begin carving the trail, I selectively remove invasive plants and leave indigenous plants. I use large trees as landmarks for wayfinding. My preferred tool is the machete – it’s lightweight and allows me to work quickly (no racing back for another tool).

Writing and editing should start with a goal in mind – what is the genre, purpose of the manuscript, target journal, level of knowledge and interest among the intended audience members, and distribution plan (print, e-publish, media, etc.). What trails have already been blazed in the area of study? What does the manuscript contribute? How is it different? Does it clarify a course of action, treatment benefit, efficacy of a safety protocol (improving upon an existing “trail”) or does it suggest an entirely new path? Experienced editors can quickly hone the language – trimming and pruning to make the message more cogent, and elaborating where more detail would add interest or clarify the material for a more naive audience.

Hoping you enjoy your Spring!

Projects completed in Q1 include drafting an invited paper on patient safety and quality; completed data analysis for a class action case related to working hours and compensation. Also prepared data analysis for the school district to evaluate new programs, such as a language immersion program and a software program to boost math comprehension for elementary students.

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