Photo of Kali Tal

Most writer's block begins with the fatal thought: Now, I have to write the paper. But that's just the wrong way to think about it. Nobody writes a paper or a dissertation. A paper or dissertation is what you end up with after you finish a series of clear, discrete, manageable tasks in the correct order. I teach my students to write along with their research, as part of the scientific process, so that by the time they would normally say, 'now, I must write the paper,' the paper is already close to finished.

— Kali Tal

In 2006, I left my position as Professor of Humanities at the University of Arizona and moved to Berlin. I had written seminal works in the field of trauma studies, taught undergraduate and graduate courses, and worked as an academic journal editor and publisher for over 20 years.  I enjoy writing, but I prefer editing and teaching, so I shifted the focus of my career.

 My interest in medicine had been growing and in 2011, when I was offered the opportunity to become the Senior Editor at the Institute of Social & Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern, I gladly accepted the position.  I briefly became an accredited trainer in the Tim Albert Method of scientific writing, and will always be grateful to Tim for his brilliant insights into the necessity of evidence-based research on the structure of journal articles. My long experience as an editor with a background in teaching composition and rhetoric to native English speakers in U.S. universities had already led me to recognize persistent and troublesome patterns in medical and graduate student writing, including many that I did not see covered in other courses. After several years, I decided to design a cycle of courses to address these needs, based on the idea that scientific writing is a distinct genre of English literature, with a clear narrative structure.

In 2016, I moved over to the Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM), where I continue to coach dissertation students throughout the writing process, edit faculty manuscripts and grants, and collaborate as a qualitative researcher, part-time. In 2017, I was invited by the Medical Library of the University of Bern to join their new Research Support Department and to develop a Medical Writing curriculum. I have developed and now teach over a dozen course modules on scientific writing.

For almost 40 years, I have edited for writers in many disciplines, ranging from medicine and the natural sciences to humanities, social sciences, and law.  Because I was trained as a literary and critical theorist, I found I was better equipped than most scientific editors to discern the meaning and the style and natural patterns of a writer’s speech, even across language barriers. My greatest joy is hearing from a client, “That’s exactly what I meant to say!”

My interdisciplinary training also helps me quickly assimilate new information and ideas, even when I am unfamiliar with a specialized subject area. The writer provides the expertise, and I help them share that expertise with readers.