Back to square one? Mouse virus may have no role to play in prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome after all

17 12 2010

A few years ago in 2006, scientists made what they felt was a breakthrough discovery: the mouse virus XMRV was found in a significant number of samples of prostate cancer. They felt they had stumbled upon something very exciting and if they were right – if this virus was in fact a cause of prostate cancer – the future looked very bright for the development of new treatments, cures and maybe even a vaccine.

A few years later in 2009 and a different group of researchers found the same virus in tissue samples from people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS; also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME). Sufferers of this syndrome have fought – and continue to fight – a long battle with the medical profession to have their disease recognised as a genuine medical condition with a tangible cause rather than being something psychological or all in their heads, so this news was exciting. In the States, chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers are even banned from donating blood because of the supposed viral link.

Four new research papers published this week in the journal Retrovirology however, have potentially quashed any hope that ME or prostate cancer sufferers may have garnered from the formerly suspected link between their conditions and the virus. One lab claims that rather than patients being infected with XMRV, their tissue or blood samples taken for diagnostic testing have been contaminated with mouse DNA, which itself may contain XMRV virus markers. Another group have gone so far as to blame a particular manufacturer of DNA testing kits with having mouse DNA-contaminated reagents.

I recently wrote a press release for Retrovirology that covered the publication of these four research articles, plus a Comment from Prof Robert Smith from the University of Washington. The story, which has been picked up by UK national newspaper, The Guardian, has caused quite some controversy (see the Virology blog article below and read the comments from disgruntled ME sufferers). I’m chuffed that one of my PRs has got into the national press – again!

Read the original articles at Retrovirology:

Read the press release I wrote at BioMed Central: Back to square one? Mouse virus may have no role to play in chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer after all.

Read some of the news stories on these articles:





Do spelling and grammar matter on social media sites?

15 12 2010

In answering this question, I’m referring specifically to corporate profile pages and communications via sites like Facebook. Though I’ll confess poor spelling and grammar always bugs me (something to which my long-suffering boyfriend will attest), I’m not in any way suggesting that my friends and family should take an English language course before being allowed to update their statuses or comment on my photos. To a certain extent, my attitude is relaxed when considering Twitter in this argument too, since the very fact that you can only write 140 characters per tweet often necessitates the use of “txt spk” in order to fit your point into the required character count.

My editorial eye seems naturally drawn to spelling mistakes, typographical errors, use of the wrong words, word repetition and poor grammar. I can’t help but notice. Sometimes, while reading The Times (a frequent culprit), in a throwback to my days as a school teacher, I’ll circle the mistakes in red pen; I’ve yet to go so far as to send the edited article back from whence it came, but perhaps I ought. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a crime for published media to contain errors, especially those institutions like the aforementioned Times who portray a professional image and, after all, whose business it is to make sense.

But what of social media? Anyone who’s anyone has a Facebook profile, and more and more businesses are cottoning on to the fact that they can meet their clients on a social, more informal level and create opportunities for interaction, rather than just stuffing leaflets through our doors or sending emails to our inboxes and hoping we’ll read them. Facebook is cool, and creating a social media buzz about a product, a company or a campaign is hot right now.

A friend living in Ireland, who clearly feels the same way as I do on this issue, posted a screenshot of this to his Facebook page today:

Be the Difference” is a campaign being run by the Irish branch of O2, one of the UK’s biggest mobile phone and communications networks, to promote their involvement in sponsoring Irish rugby. As my friend pointed out, it helps if you read it in an Irish accent (“we taught we’d help you out!”), but going by the numerous other errors in this short advertorial piece, I’m not convinced it’s meant to be that humorous!

Is it OK to let mistakes like this slip just because it’s on Facebook? I have no doubt that O2 and other large companies have proof readers and editors cast a final glance over their TV, billboard and magazine ads, so why not their social media ads too? Or, to cut out an extra step in the process (because clearly the up-to-the-minute nature of social media marketing means that a large volume of material is generated on a daily basis), why not hire marketeers that can spell and use grammar correctly in the first place? Perhaps there is an argument that most people won’t notice; that Average Joe can’t spell so why should it matter? I strongly contest this. To my mind, correct spelling, grammar and use of the English language – especially in corporate communications – demonstrates professionalism, shows that a company is intelligent and that it knows what it’s talking about. Of course, having a great product or service that people actually want is crucial, but so is the way that that product or service – and the company as a whole – is portrayed to the consumer. Excepting deliberate use of poor grammar and spelling for humorous intent, sloppy standards and dumbing down don’t work for me, I’m afraid.





More from Ecolicious Foods

14 12 2010

Just in case you missed my announcement last month that I’d recently been made chief blogger at the Ecolicious Foods blog, here’s a little update on what’s been going on with the site and the company.

Unfortunately, despite site owner Steve’s infectious enthusiasm for his organic business venture, progress with the main Ecolicious Foods website has been slow. It was hoped that the online store would go live before Christmas, but it’s looking likely that sometime in January 2011 will be a more realistic launch date.

Nevertheless, the Ecolicious blog has got off to a great start with 4 brilliant posts (I can say that; I wrote them!) including a piece about the possible link between pesticide use and the decline in the UK’s population of bees, and, in the midst of the UK government’s spending cuts, particularly in scientific research and education,  an interesting example of how a grant given by the US government is being used to fund research into organic agriculture.

The Ecolicious Foods blog is on hold now until the New Year, but we’ll be back with a vengance in 2011 to unleash Ecolicious Foods onto the world!





Oz Couriers – Budget Couriers and Removalists

9 12 2010

Oz Couriers is run by the same brains behind USB King and fills a niche in the budget removals and couriering market in Victoria, Australia. It was great working with the entrepreneurial owner of the site, who hired me through Freelancer.com and whose straightforward nature made the project process effortless and hitch-free.

As the site design is clean and easily navigable, it was important not to clutter the page with wordy, elaborate copy, yet as a low-cost company in a highly competitive market, it needed to be convincing without being overly “sales-y” or pushy. I hope you’ll agree that this has effectively been achieved!





I Like Your Design

6 12 2010

For my second project working with András Szabó of Org50.com, here’s a lovely website that has just gone live with copy written by moi. I Like Your Design is a cool little networking site for graphic designers and web developers (or anyone, really) that allows you to save screenshots of full or partial web pages (using a handy Firefox plugin) so that you can keep an online scrapbook of designs that interest you, grab your attention and provide inspiration. The screengrabs can be sorted into categories and you can also search through other peoples’ collections to find out what’s hot in the world of web design.





Our Green Earth Archive

3 12 2010

I can attribute the success of my freelancing career so far to one website – Our Green Earth. It was after winning a project to write articles for this site and subsequently posting the links on my Facebook page that my writing was noticed by the PR Manager at my place of work. She then asked me to start writing press releases to promote newsworthy research published by BioMed Central. This allowed me to not only start to build up the extensive portfolio of work that you see today, but also gave me the confidence to continue in my freelance adventure, winning projects left, right and centre and building up a successful writing and editing business.

Sadly, Our Green Earth is no more. After graduating from university, Tom, the young entrepreneur owner of the site has gone and got himself a “proper job” and no longer has time to manage his websites. It’s a real shame. Tom has very kindly handed copyright of the work back to me, so I’ve updated my original posts that linked to these articles to contain the full text. To read more, please view my Our Green Earth category.





USB King

2 12 2010

A little copywriting project here for USB King, an Australian purveyor of quirky USB enabled devices including key-shaped pen drives and USB electric blankets. They wanted an About Us page, so here it is! You can also find them on Facebook.








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