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Monday, February 21, 2011
Tools for authors: writing style
This journal, like most, rejects more articles than it accepts for publication. Here, in Page 2, we discuss different tools for authors. This week, writing style will be examined.

The science may be good, but if the reviewer cannot clearly understand what the authors are trying to say, it is more than likely that neither would a reader. There’s a good chance that the article will either be rejected or, if the authors are lucky, the recommendation is to revise and reconsider. Submitting an article for consideration for publication is not that different from being interviewed for a job; if the attire for the interview is a dress or suit and tie and instead you come in wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, the likelihood that you will be hired is slim at best. In a much similar fashion, with a manuscript it is the writing style that gives the reviewer the first impression.

The style must be concise, clear, without major issues in grammar, usage, and mechanics, and the writing should be tonally appropriate for the intended audience. Like anything, good writing takes practice. Many prolific writers are also prolific readers (though the reverse may not necessarily be the case). For the scientific writer, reading many high quality manuscripts will help develop writing style.

This is an English language journal. Though the non-native writer may write well in their first language, the same may not be true when the writer is composing in standard written English. There are editorial services that can help the non-native English writer: some are listed on our website: For Authors->Language Editing Services (or click here). (Please note that a listing on the website does not represent endorsement.)

Before submitting an article for consideration for publication, it would behoove a prospective author to have a native English speaker read the manuscript. The native speaker might not necessarily understand the science behind the article, but most know good writing when they see it (especially if they are well-read individuals). There are several books for health professionals that describe how to write. One of this reviewer’s favorite books is Barnard S, Health Care Communications Group: Writing, speaking, & communication skills for health professionals New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001, pp 338(the Amazon link does not represent endorsement of Amazon). Do you have a favorite book or article on writing style for the health professional? If so, send us a note. If you are a reviewer or editor, do you have anything else to share on this topic? We would also appreciate your comments. Comments or suggestions may be included in a future blog on this topic.
Posted by J. Lance Lichtor, M.D.
J. Lance Lichor, MD
About the Author

J. Lance Lichtor, M.D
J. Lance Lichtor, M.D. is a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at The University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is the web editor and an associate editor for Anesthesiology.

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