Before I became a vampire ER nurse, I used to sit at home editing medical materials (mostly journals). A job at which I made more money than I do now, sat on my ass all day, and declined to work at all if I felt like eating bonbons instead. But I digress. Like any field, that one has its moments that make you want stab a knitting needle into your ear to produce immediate relief from the pain. A former colleague e-mailed me one this morning, and I said, "Just edit the math online," because this story so accurately summarizes many interactions editors have with their employers, who generally know less than the contractors they're hired to supervise.

Here's the e-mail interaction, somewhat simplified:

Me: I got this manuscript file, but the math has all dropped out of the electronic file, and the hard copy is a printout of the electronic file, so I have no math at all.

Client: Just edit the math online.

Me [considering that until recently, we marked up most math on hard copy for typesetting]: Yes, but there is no math, not even on the hard copy.

Client [including memo explaining how to typeset math electronically]: Please note that we now edit all equations electronically using the Microsoft Equation Editor.

Me: Right. But as I say, THERE IS NO MATH.

Client: Please edit the math online.

Me [gritting teeth]: Please explain to me how I should typeset nonexistent math, and I'll be happy to do it.

Client: Please enter the equations from the hard copy and include a note for the proofreader to double-check it.

Me: THERE IS NO MATH. Should I make it up? OPEN THE FILE YOU SENT ME, and tell me how I should invent this math.

Client: Oh. I'll send you a PDF of the original.

Me: [knittingneedle]