Newsletter – November 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the November 2018 chapter newsletter. Let us know what you think, and remember, you can also read it on the chapter website. You can find previous newsletters on the website as well. And we always welcome suggestions for newsletter topics.

In this issue:

Chapter Special Event: Tour and Movie: November 15
SE MN Discussion Group: November 30
Networking Happy Hour: February 21, 2019
Book Club: January 28, 2019

Chapter Volunteers Needed!

Book Club Notes: A World Without “Whom”


AMWA North Central Fall Special Event
Thursday, November 15, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Venue: Excelen Center for Bone & Joint Research and Education
700 10th Avenue South, Minneapolis,
Program: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., networking, food and drinks,
and a tour of the Excelen facilities
Movie: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., States of Grace viewing in the Excelen auditorium.

Join our chapter and our co-host Excelen for networking, a tour of its skills and biomechanics labs, and a movie! RSVP to Messac Che Neba, mcheneba (at) gmail (dot) com (walk-ins are welcome, too).

Excelen, a nonprofit research and education organization, assists orthopedic scientists, engineers, physicians, and students in their efforts to research and develop innovative surgical and rehabilitative techniques.

The Excelen tour will be followed by viewing States of Grace, a movie based on a true story that has garnered several awards and remarkable testimonials from viewers — especially within the medical community. The documentary shares the story of Dr. Grace Dammann, a renowned HIV/AIDS expert, who survived a head-on auto collision in 2008. Directed by a family friend, the movie involves Dr. Dammann’s partner and daughter, exploring the changes to all of their lives with an emphasis on their roles as caregivers and care receivers. You can find more information and see the trailer at

The Excelen auditorium will provide us with an exceptional and comfortable viewing experience. Come join us for this special fall event!

SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group
November 30, 2018: 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Details: These quarterly gatherings are informal, and lunch is provided by the chapter. All AMWA members and guests are welcome. To ensure an accurate head count for the lunch order, RSVP one week before the meeting (email June Oshiro at oshiro (dot) june (at) mayo (dot) edu).

We have no formal discussion topic for this meeting — let’s talk about whatever’s on your mind! If it’s been a while since you’ve attended, come on back, don’t be shy! If you’ve never joined us before, please consider coming by and introducing yourself. Nonmembers are welcome, too.

Directions to our meeting are at Hope to see you there!

Networking Happy Hour
Grumpy’s, 2801 Snelling Avenue North, Roseville, MN
Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Details: Join the North Central chapter for a friendly, informal networking event. Members and nonmembers with an interest in medical communications are welcome. Appetizers are on the chapter! RSVP to Messac Che Neba, mcheneba (at) gmail (dot) com so we can get a ballpark number for the reservation (walk-ins are welcome, too).

Book Club: Monday, January 28, 2019, at 11 a.m.
The Egg and I, 2550 University Ave., St. Paul, MN
The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization
Details: For our winter meeting, we will be discussing The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner. You are warmly invited to ask a colleague or a friend to come along with you. Your guest need not be an AMWA member (yet!), just someone who loves books and language-oriented, medically inflected discussions.

The Egg & I, at 2550 University Ave., is just west of Hwy. 280, near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border. If you (and a guest) plan to attend, please let Mary Knatterud know: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu or 651-645-3858.

Even if you haven’t started or finished the book by then, feel free to come and chime in anyway. Our small group varies: new and/or returning AMWA Book Club fans are always welcome.

For those of you who like to read ahead, we have chosen these books for later in 2019:
• April 29, 2019: Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr
• September 30, 2019: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

Read Another Good Book?
Whether you’ve read a professional/technical, biomedical/science nonfiction, or fiction book that you think other chapter members may enjoy, share a short review with us. Write a paragraph or a few about what you liked about the book, how it might be good for medical writers to read, or how it might fill a need. Send your submissions to jean (at) imagesmythe (dot) com.


Volunteers Still Needed!
As you know, our North Central chapter is a volunteer-based organization. If members don’t take an active role, the chapter will cease to function, and members will lose access to programming, news, and networking opportunities.

Consider taking your turn to lead (or join) a committee or serve as a chapter officer. These positions are still open:
• President-Elect: The president-elect participates in a 3-year term: learning the chapter’s processes as president-elect, then serving as president, and finally continuing on as immediate past president to ensure continuity.
• Treasurer: The treasurer (3-year term) manages the chapter’s checking account, develops the annual budget in collaboration with the president and president-elect, contributes to semiannual reports, completes IRS filing, and when needed, helps other committees establish a budget for large events. The current treasurer’s term will overlap with the incoming treasurer’s term to teach you about the position.
• Finance Committee Chair: This chair coordinates the annual audit of the chapter’s financial records at the close of the fiscal year (July) and reports the findings to the chapter treasurer.
• Publications Committee Chair: This chair keeps chapter members informed by writing, and asking others to write articles for our monthly e-newsletter (e.g., profiles of members, “What We Do” articles, and news items).

Not ready or able to lead a committee? All of our committees welcome members to share ideas and keep the workload light.

In addition to keeping our group viable, volunteering with AMWA is a great way to network with your fellow members. It’s also a good way to fortify your C.V. with an extra line showing how you give back to your profession! If you can volunteer a few hours a month to help, contact our president, Lisa Poppenberg: president (at) Thank you!


Book Club Notes:
A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age
By Paul Mamula, PhD

Our book club held its annual dinner meeting at Boca Chica restaurant in St Paul on September 24 to discuss A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla. The book is the author’s first, and it presents a first-person account of writing and editing for the web. She wrote the book at the urging of her editor-colleagues, and it has recently been published in a paperback edition.

The Author and Our Selection
Emmy J. Favilla is a thirty-something editor for BuzzFeed, a web-based news service, which she joined in 2012. The BuzzFeed style guide that she created attracted considerable media attention; it became the unofficial style guide for the internet when BuzzFeed went public in 2014. Previously, Favilla worked as a copy editor at several magazines, including Natural Health and Seventeen.

As a writer and editor, I read web-based articles of varying length and usually have more than a few complaints about uncorrected mistakes, style quirks, and undefined abbreviations in them. After reading a review of Favilla’s book, I suggested it for our book club, eager to see how the author and other internet editors address various publication and style issues for the general reader. A particular sore point for me is the use of undefined abbreviations in social media (eg, TL;DR means “too long; didn’t read”; ISWYDT stands for “I see what you did there”).

The Book
The text is 311 pages with several appendices that contain the BuzzFeed style guide, terms readers today should know (a must for those who are not regular social media users), headline writing, and editing for international audiences. Although the book is mostly a style guide, it is an easy (and fun) read. Yet it is not without problems: Many of the email and photo reproductions are of poor quality and too often derail the flow of her text. However, one can easily browse rather than read chapter by chapter, since many of them seem as if they were written as stand-alone pieces.

Our Reactions
I enjoyed Favilla’s perspective on what is considered passé in writing and editing (always subjective depending on one’s age, education, and writing forum), but had to laugh when in a later section she lamented how lol, a favorite web initialism from her college days, has been rendered obsolete. I am not sure she realized that this was the same complaint she had about older individuals supposedly being slow to adapt to new things. (Funny, lol!) Some sections also contain interesting features. One I liked was a sidebar entitled “Old Timey Words You Need to Start Using Again.” My favorite word listed was codswallop, British slang for nonsense. The section on how to edit for readers in the United Kingdom and other countries was enlightening, especially regarding colloquial expressions, which often either have a different meaning or are not easily translatable from American English.

Mary Knatterud also enjoyed the book. She said, “I love consulting style guides, even though I follow them only when I agree with their advice for whatever document I’m working on. Favilla’s intelligent insights and rollicking riffs made her book fun—not just to dip into but to actually read straight through, as I did. She comes across as a real person, a flexible pro, a lively colleague.”

But Knatterud had some reservations, as did the other book club attendees, about the author’s incessantly breezy tone. Knatterud admitted, “I got tired of Favilla’s continual references to internet memes, her endless reproductions of glib email exchanges with coworkers, and especially her ageism, as if hers is the first generation to combat pointless grammatical ‘rules,’ when in fact thoughtful wordsmiths have been championing ever-evolving, empathetic usage for decades.” We all know that some “rules” are not really rules, for example, it has always made sense to split infinitives and to end sentences with prepositions.

All in all, though, the book is worthwhile reading if you write for the web or are not a frequent user of social media.

Up Next
Our next gathering will be at The Egg & I restaurant in St Paul on January 28, 2019. We will discuss The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner. We hope to see you there!