Newsletter – March 2020

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the March 2020 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:





Book Club: April 27, 2020

Mirror of Korea, St Paul, 761 Snelling Ave, St Paul

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller Details:

Our next book club is on April 27, 2020, at 11 a.m. at Mirror of Korea, St Paul,761 Snelling Ave, St Paul, in the Midway neighborhood near Hamline University. We will discuss Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. Even if you haven’t read the book, join us to have a quick lunch or brunch and meet AMWA members. See you there!

By 9 a.m. the morning of April 27, please email Book Club coordinator Paul Mamula to let him know you’re coming: paulpat (at) pclink (dot) com.

SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group

April 27th,  2020: 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.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!


Take an Active Role — Volunteer!

Volunteers Needed!

AMWA North Central 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 open:

Treasurer: The Treasurer (3-year term) manages the chapter checking account, develops the annual budget in collaboration with the president and president-elect, contributes to semi-annual 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: The Finance Committee 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.

Not ready or able to lead a committee? All 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, Michele Cleary: president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org.


Book Club Notes: Dreyer’s English

By Paul W. Mamula, PhD

Our book club met on January 27, 2020 at the Egg and I in St Paul to discuss Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer. The author is copy chief of Random House. The book was published in late 2019 and has been reviewed in The New York Times Review of Books and other publications.

The Book

Dreyer’s English is a compact 265 pages, consisting of an introduction, 13 chapters divided into 2 sections (The Stuff in the Front and The Stuff in the Back), 3 short end chapters, and an index. The first section addresses copyediting, rules, and other issues of grammar, mostly as they pertain to fiction writing. The second section deals with misspellings, pet peeves, confused words, and other matters (some funny, some idiosyncratic, some cultural). This author has worked primarily in fiction rather than medical writing and that makes the book interesting and a study in style differences. Given that the new edition of the AMA Manual of Style is due out in March of 2020 and all of us work or worked in medical publications or industry, comparisons with Dreyer’s English made for a lively discussion.


We all enjoyed the book. It offered up copyediting from the perspective of an editor of fiction and presented the pure joy of words. We were surprised at how many prominent novelists Benjamin Dreyer had worked with during his career (notables include E.L. Doctorow, Michael Chabon, Michael Pollan, and Frank Rich to name a few). While his advice and suggestions apply more to fiction than medical writing, they do give the book a cheery tone and do not detract from the enjoyment.

Mary Knatterud and I liked many of his anecdotes, often rambling and funny in the footnotes. But we noticed the asterisk for footnote was hard to read, more likely a quirk of the font used in the book than our myopic eyes. (As a copy editor, I would have made the asterisk bold.) As a “Mac” guy, I appreciated his preference for Mac computers as opposed to PCs for ease of use! (PC users may disagree.) We enjoyed his idiosyncrasies even though they were not always in sync with our thoughts on editing.

We liked his endorsement of the serial comma, the lack of which in most of contemporary writing irritates many medical writers and sometimes introduces confusion. Simply put, it enhances clarity. His sentence illustrating the point is funny:

  • No serial comma: “Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year old demigod and a dildo collector.”
  • Serial comma: “Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year old demigod, and a dildo collector.”

He also suggests that the sentence could be rewritten, the “standard defense” of the nonserial comma crowd.

I enjoyed his leavening the text with words pulled from his background and work in New York. (I had to look up ungapatchka, Yiddish for “too much” or “over the top,” and interrobang, a combined question mark and exclamation point.) His witty prose made for a thoroughly entertaining read.

Differences of Opinion

Mary Knatterud reiterated that she “suggested this book because I love devouring style guides and kept seeing mini-reviews of this one in magazines I relish like The New Yorker and Ms. and even the occasional copy of People.”

She found Dreyer’s English to be “a surprisingly quick read.” She said, “I gradually acclimated to its quirky, usually refreshing tone; and of course, as with all style guides, disagreed with lots of it.” She also noted, “All of us writerly types have our own bugbears, but I chafed at (1) Benjamin Dreyer’s aversion in prose to the now utterly familiar two-letter postal abbreviations (I see nothing ‘more attractive,’ as he claims on page 23, in, say, N. Dak. over ND) and at (2) his recommendation to simply slap an apostrophe plus ‘s’ onto all singular possessives, including such traditional tongue-saving exceptions as Socrates’ or Dickens’ (I doubt that most people would deem Socrates’s and Dickens’s as either common or pronounceable).”

Knatterud added, “I also winced at some of Dreyer’s overly ironclad assertions. Unlike his claim on page 40 that ‘there’s no reason for the original owner of a name’ to ever use Sr., I can think of many reasons, e.g., to differentiate between Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. vs. Jr. and between (in my favorite classic Christmas movie and novella, Miracle on 34th Street), Thomas Mara Sr. vs. Jr. And unlike his pooh-poohing on page 246 of broad spectrum, the term broad-spectrum antibiotics in medicine is NOT redundant.”

But Knatterud emphasized, “I agreed with most of Dreyer’s entertainingly offered opinions, especially his clear understanding on page 42 that farmers market needs no apostrophe!”

Up Next

Our next book club is on April 27, 2020 at 11 am at the Mirror of Korea, 761 Snelling Ave, St Paul, in the Midway neighborhood near Hamline University. We will discuss Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. This short but fact-filled book is part of our efforts to broaden selections beyond medical topics. Reading the book is not a prerequisite for attending the book club. The meeting represents a chance to sample the fare at one of our local restaurants and meet other AMWA members. Come join us!

Have you read a good book lately?

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 jennerb (at)_gmail (dot) com.