From the Readers
Kudos for Forum Chair
I have published many papers in actuarial journals, and I have worked with a wide range of editors. Editing work is tedious, and it is always a pleasure to work with actuaries who perform the task well.
Many editors have their own perspective on the qualities of a good paper, which may at times conflict with the intentions of the author or the needs of the readers. Some editors make idiosyncratic demands on the author, involving extensive rewrites that do little to enhance the paper. Sometimes editors lack the perseverance to finish a complex task, and their editing changes are not always well considered. Professional editing is a highly skilled task, and it is rare to find volunteers to undertake this job.
My own papers are generally geared to the practicing actuary. They deal with issues that are vital for the practitioner but of little interest to others. Papers on statutory accounting, such as Schedule P and Schedule F, are examples. Few editors have the patience to check carefully the statutory regulations and accounting illustrations in such papers.
Practicing actuaries value these papers. They value them not for theoretical insights but for clarity of exposition, comprehensiveness of coverage, and the numerical illustrations that accompany each section.
Authors get tired when the work is tedious, and I am no exception to this rule. I recently submitted four papers to the CAS Forum, all of which are geared to the practicing actuary, and all of which provide painstaking explanations and illustrations. Sometimes the exposition was not clear enough, sometimes the illustrations were not complete, and sometimes the style was not consistent from section to section.
Two weeks ago, I was astonished to receive Dennis Lange's FedEx package in the mail. Dennis is editor of the CAS Forum, and he undertook the task of completing what I had begun. He meticulously reviewed 350 pages of accounting text, checking every illustration, every figure, every comma. He corrected every arithmetic error and...I found his red check marks neatly penciled in next to each entry.
Dennis put himself in the reader's shoes, continually asking: "Does this paragraph make sense? Is the exposition clear? What changes might help the reader in dealing with this topic?" In dozens of places Dennis inserted suggested changes to clarify the language. Sometimes he just wrote: "This doesn't seem correct." More often than not, he was right, and I corrected the offending text.
At one point, Dennis wrote: "This section seems incomplete." Dennis then included his recommendation for completing the illustration. I had not finished the example simply because it required too much effort to write out the documentation. With Dennis's guidance, I filled in the necessary entries and the associated explanation.
Authors should accommodate their readers. In accounting papers, the reader wants specific line and column information, though authors tire of giving exact references for each item. I also tire, and sometimes I do not give the needed references. Dennis did not just note the places that references were missing. Not only did he insert the references himself, but he corrected several of my references that were mistaken. I am truly indebted to Dennis for thisand readers are doubly indebted to him.
This type of editing is vital for the clarity of papers geared to practicing actuaries. Yet the editing of CAS papers is an unpaid task. We all work for a living, and we do not have the spare time for even an hour or two of volunteer editing, much less the weeks of exacting effort that Dennis put in.
Dennis does not work alone. Two other members of the CAS Forum committee, Thomas Ryan and Steve Groeschen, assisted in reviewing the papers I submitted. They also fulfilled their responsibilities well, making the writing clearer and correcting errors.
Every so often I meet an actuary who has benefited from a paper of mine and who thanks me for the time that I spent writing it. I acknowledge the thanks, and I add: We must equally thank actuaries like Dennis Lange, who have made these papers truly useful for practicing actuaries.
Sholom Feldblum, FCAS
A Chief Clarification
"Tales From the Chiefs" was a most interesting article (The Actuarial Review, August 2002). I would like to correct one error in my comments. When I went through the chairs [starting as vice president, then president-elect and president], the executive officers met regularly and frequently, but did not include the immediate past president.
I also noted another change for the better. In one of Irene Bass's answers, she stated that travel to get to some of the COP (Council of Presidents) and international meetings "was time-consuming and exceedingly expensive to the CAS." In my time, such expenses were picked up by the employer.
Ruth Salzmann, FCAS