Newsletter- May/ June 2021

Welcome to the May/ June 2021 chapter newsletter. Spring has sprung, and like the gophers that populate our prairies, many of us are timidly peeking out our caves and tiptoeing back into society. Here’s hoping everyone is vaccinated or will be very soon! And, as always, we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. 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.

In this issue:





Urgent Need for Volunteers!

Programming Chair, Finance Committee Chair, and Co-Secretary

The AMWA North Central chapter is looking for a new Programming Chair, Finance Committee Chair, and Co-Secretary. Please consider volunteering!

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.

Please submit your interest or nominations for any of the positions to bod (at) list.amwanorthcentral (dot) org

The following positions are open:

  • Programming Committee Chair: The Program Committee Chair is responsible for organizing AMWA events throughout the year, including identifying topics of interest and recruiting speakers. This is an important role in AMWA and is valuable for both member engagement and education.
  • Finance Committee Chair: The Finance Committee Chair conducts the annual audit of chapter finances alongside the treasurer. They are also welcome to attend the monthly BOD meetings, if they would like.
  • Co-Secretary: This position is vital to our chapter! The Co-Secretary will serve a 1-year term starting January 2022 along with the current Secretary, and ideally transition to the role of Secretary the following year. The Co-Secretary will attend the monthly AMWA NC chapter board meetings and assist the Secretary in managing the chapter’s website,  distributing the monthly newsletter by email, and sending email communications about upcoming events.

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 bod (at) list.amwanorthcentral (dot) org

Chapter Advisory Council Update by LeAnne Stee, North Central Chapter Representative

The AMWA Chapter Advisory Council (CAC) held its first quarterly meeting of 2021 on March 4. The meeting was held virtually with GoToMeeting software. Thirteen chapters were represented.

Mission of the CAC: Kim Korwek, chair, opened the meeting by reviewing the purpose of the CAC: to maintain a connection between chapter leaders and the AMWA Board of Directors by advising the AMWA board on the organization’s strategic direction as it affects the chapters and acting as a sounding board about issues that have an impact on chapters, the national organization, or both.

2020 and 2021 Conferences: Sharon Ruckdeschel, Director of Membership and Systems for AMWA, reviewed the AMWA 2020 Medical Writing and Communication Conference held October 20-22. Approximately 750 people registered for the conference. In past years, the attendance has ranged from 800 to 1,000. Plans are being made for the 2021 conference to be held October 27-29. Calls for proposals have gone out to members.

Updates From the AMWA Board of Directors—Kim

  1. The board approved an extension until December 31, 2021, to allow webinars and online meetings to count toward the required number of events a chapter must have each year.
  2. Virtual events have been enthusiastically accepted by members. The Board emphasizes that chapter events are intended to support chapter members and local activity. Chapter members should be offered access before non-members if virtual capacity is limited. Chapters have reported that attendance has increased with the use of virtual meetings.
  3. The AMWA Journal has a new editor-in-chief: Michael Baker, PhD.

Virtual and Online Presence of Chapters—Kim

  1. A report has been proposed for chapter leaders to provide information about each chapter’s virtual presence, event planning, and chapter operations (such as tools and processes).
  2. CAC representatives provided questions and topics for the report. The main topics were as follows:
  3. Virtual presence: tools being used and their cost, storing webinars (speaker copyright, file storage and access), storage of chapter files, media use
  4. Event planning: payment and expense reimbursement for speakers, use of signed agreements or contracts with speakers, virtual and live hybrid events, frequency of networking events, whole chapter vs local events (breakout vs separate events), costs
  5. Chapter operations: file access and knowledge transfer, tech tools used by leaders (other than website), combatting span, retention policy for chapter records, best practices for policy and procedures manual, leaders who reside out a chapter’s geographic area, leader recruitment and avoiding burnout, leader compensation, member engagement strategies, pandemic-related membership challenges
  6.  Kim will collate the proposed questions and comments into a draft survey. CAC members will review and revise the survey before distribution.

Future CAC Teleconferences—Kim

Dates for the remaining meetings of 2021 are as follows:

  • May 20
  • August 19
  • During the 2021 conference (October 2021)


Survey on Summer Chapter Events

We want to hear from you! As we shift back to in-person events, we need your input on your preferences for summer 2021. Please keep in mind that events will follow state and CDC guidelines. Please complete the survey on AMWA chapter events by June 7, 2021.

Please send suggestions for speakers or topics to bod (at) list.amwanorthcentral (dot) org.

Book Club hosted by Paul Mamula

Book: Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment by James H. Jones

When: Monday, September 27th, 2021 at 6:00 pm Central Time via Zoom

RSVP: Please email Book Club coordinator Paul Mamula to let him know you will attend before Monday, September 27th, if you have not done so already: paulpat (at) pclink (dot) com.


Book Club Notes: Semicolon1

By Paul W. Mamula

Our virtual Book Club met on April 26, 2021, to discuss Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark by Cecelia Watson.The title succinctly explains the book’s contents, which grew out of an essay of Watson’s in 2012. The author is a historian and philosopher of science and a teacher of writing and the humanities. She is a faculty member of the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

About the Book

Watson’s dandy little book is an easy read. It is not strictly for writers or grammarians but includes something for nearly everyone. The book traces the semicolon’s origin, history, and usage, along with lots more in only 183 pages. Historians of language will enjoy the chapter on the mark’s origin, replete with trivia, illustrations, and historical facts. Editors and writers may find chapter 4 fun with its explanation of how a printing error caused an uproar in Boston when a semicolon replaced a comma in a liquor law. The net result was no beer sales between 11 pm and 6 am (pp 62-63). The change was argued in court and produced multiple controversial and contradictory interpretations over the years. (For trivia buffs, that chapter is a cool complement to the misplaced comma that cost the United States the equivalent of $38.5 million in lost customs revenue in 18722).

Mary Knatterud said, “Having taught the ‘Punctuation for Clarity and Style’ workshop for many years at national AMWA conferences, I relished this book. I especially liked the sometimes-surprising historical nuggets, such as the fact that, per an 1862 grammar book, ‘students were instructed to use a semicolon (not a colon, as we moderns would) to introduce a list of items’” (p 50).

I enjoyed chapter 8 (Persuasion and Pretension: Are Semicolons for Snobs?), because I used to share Kurt Vonnegut’s view quoted in the Introduction: “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. All they do is show you’ve been to college” (pp 1-2). Before joining McGraw-Hill’s Healthcare Information Group in 1997, I hardly ever used semicolons other than to separate long items in series. McGraw-Hill editorial staffs used the mark liberally, and I became a fan and frequent user.

Five Fun Facts

A few other fun facts from the book include these gems:

  • The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494 (p 13).
  • Article IV, Section III of the US Constitution contains a semicolon that could be interpreted to mean that West Virginia, Kentucky, and Maine are unconstitutional (p 87).
  • Other nonwestern languages such as Turkish and Arabic also employ the semicolon (p 94).
  • The book has a witty excerpt from Raymond Chandler’s essay, “A Night in Hollywood,” that contains an entire page punctuated only by semicolons and a terminal period (pp 110-111). According to the author, it was perhaps a riff on Kipling’s poem “If.”
  • Chapter titles are entertaining, such as chapter 6: “Carving Semicolons in Stone” (p 91).

A Few Quibbles

Although we enjoyed the book, we did have a few quibbles. Knatterud said, “I found Watson’s swagger tiresome at times, as in her rationale for

temporarily giving up the dash: ‘I haven’t got a religious bone in my body, but I enjoy the Lenten ritual of challenging oneself with deprivation of some kind’ (p 154).” Knatterud added, “The footnote-announcing asterisks dotting the text were barely big enough or dark enough to pick out, and sometimes the source of quoted material (for example, on p 139) was time-consuming to figure out.”

I echo Knatterud’s complaint about the size of the asterisks, but I found the footnotes to be funny and informative and, given the book’s short length, finding them was only a minor annoyance. Curiously, we had the same complaint about asterisk size in Benjamin Dreyer’s book, Dreyer’s English, our AMWA Book Club selection for January 2020.I don’t know if the font was the same for both books; Semicolon does not list the font type, but both books share the same problem and could have used either a larger font or bold type.

In addition, the illustrations were not as sharp as they could be. I found some of the reproductions of texts a little blurry, although I did appreciate them. I would have also liked the sentence diagramming illustrations to be a little larger. It would have been nice to read them without squinting. These complaints are partly explainable by the book’s small size, about that of a paperback book.

Overall, Knatterud stressed her delight with a book whose sole focus is the semicolon. She said, “It brought back great memories of our AMWA Book Club’s selection [in January 2012] of the Pulitzer-winning play W;t by Margaret Edson, which was also brought to life on the Broadway stage and on TV.”

Next Up

Our next book club will be held on September 27, 2021. We will discuss Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment byJames H. Jones. Everyone is welcome, even those who haven’t read the book. We hope you will join us.


  1. A shorter version of this article was published in the All Booked Up section of the NetworkingNews (PEN Newsletter), Apr 2021, pp 4-5.
  2. Crockett A. The Most Expensive Typo in Legislative History. Oct 9, 2014. [Accessed Jan 27, 2021]. The Most Expensive Typo in Legislative History.

I Got a Job!

by Adam Fix, PhD

On May 3rd, I started a full-time contract position as a Global Writer at the Transportation & Electronics Business Group at 3M. The opportunity struck like lightning: a staffing agent contacted me on Wednesday, I interviewed virtually on Friday, and signed the offer letter on Monday. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it! I guess all that hard work job searching actually paid off. Man, what a weird feeling…

At any rate, I sincerely want to thank everyone at the AMWA North Central Chapter for their encouragement and assistance these past few months. I certainly still want to be involved in this AMWA chapter, even if this new job isn’t technically medical writing (3M makes medical materials but that’s not the group I’m in).