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Saturday, October 11, 2008

And the prize goes to

A few odds and ends this morning.

(1) Found this sentence yesterday in an article I'm editing:
Strattera is the first medication to receive an FDA indication for treatment of ADHD in adults.
I'm certain the source the writer consulted used the word "indication." The problem is the work the writer was doing is meant for a health consumer audience, not a medical or pharmaceutical audience. It's like the writer simply took the information in but didn't have time to digest it before spilling it back out. Had the writer taken the time to think about what the sentence meant in the day to day language of the audience she was writing for, then she would have at least used the word "approval."

But the problem with the sentence is actually more basic than that. The sentence appeared in a section about what medical treatment is used for adults with ADHD. Here's the sentence before the one in question:

If stimulant medications have bothersome side effects or are not effective, your doctor might recommend atomoxetine (Strattera), a non stimulant medication.

The real problem with the FDA sentence is that it doesn't add anything to the reader's understanding. Since the reader is not going to be writing prescriptions, then it doesn't matter that Strattera is the first -- or only -- medication approved for this use. What question the reader probably will have is, "What is a non stimulant medication, and how is it different than the other medications?" And that's because the real question the reader is going to have is, "How will this medication affect me?"

(2) Speaking of digesting....When I was a young (er, relatively young) teacher, I had a freshman composition class and we were studying the use of figurative language. One of the students asked me what a mixed metaphor is. I stumbled through an answer and searched my brain frantically to come up with an example.

That afternoon, I went to an American literature seminar, and the professor, for some reason, wanted to discuss the value of seminars in a graduate program.

One of the women in the seminar, who had actually passed her generals and was working on her dissertation, said:

Oh, I love seminars. To me they're just like this huge, delicious smorgasbord where I can pick and choose and try things on for size.

It took me a week to get rid of the image of her walking down the street wearing a wardrobe made out of mashed potatoes and caviar.

(3) I got an email this morning with the subject line, "I hate to edit the Word mechanic. That being said...". It came from my son :

From a recent post:
"There are two questions you here all the time in certain circles in places like Birmingham: "Who's your mother?"

I fixed it. Now I'll have to have a conversation with him about the use of internal quotation marks.


  1. Mashed potatoes and caviar? What kind of smorgasbords do you go to?

    Thank you. I learn so much here.

    Peace - Rene