Journal Logo

Be Your Own Copy-Editor

The full-time in-house staff of JBJS copy-editors have years (and sometimes decades) of experience with substantive editing of orthopaedic material. We spend approximately 10 to 15 hours on each article—editing, checking, and polishing—to help our authors "say what they want to say" with clarity, consistency, and 100% accuracy. For those authors (and any editorial staff who aid them) who wish to "be their own copy-editors," or just want a peek into our process, we offer the following copy-editing guidelines and tips.

1. Everything has to match.

Although they may not affect clinical practice, even slight errors in data reporting (e.g., an average score of 75.6 in the Abstract and 75.7 in the Results section) may suggest an insufficient attention to detail that could have also affected your research. A way to avoid this is to cross-check all values or statements that appear in >1 of the following sections:

  • Abstract (*Also remember: all data in the Abstract must appear in the text)
  • Text (*Don't forget consistency among sections of the text itself: e.g., values mentioned in the Discussion must match those in the Materials and Methods and/or Results section)
  • Tables (*We go so far as to average columns of table data to ensure that they match averages mentioned in the text)
  • Figures (*Is the information in the legend consistent with the information in the text where the figure is cited? Does the bar of the graph hit the same value that is reported in the text?)
  • References (*If you cite "Meyer3", make sure that #3 in your reference list doesn't say "Taylor," or even "Meyers")

2. JBJS has an extensive style guide developed over the years with author input.

It is our job, not yours, to make sure that JBJS articles conform to house style. However, since we often receive questions about format and preferred terms, we have culled some information for your reference.

3. References and citations.

With the help of sophisticated software and a trained team of editorial assistants, JBJS checks and corrects every reference in your list. To cite and list references according to JBJS specifications:

  • format journal references according to PubMed/Index Medicus style
  • make sure all references are cited, in numerical order, in the text
  • use superscript numerals for reference citations in the text
  • if a paper has 2 authors, cite both ("the study by Smith and Jones demonstrated. . ."); if it has ≥3, use "et al." ("Smith et al. reported . . .")

A complete list of how to cite every type of reference can be found here.

4. Don't use other people's stuff (even accidentally) without asking.

Copyright is a murky area that even editors struggle with. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: I photographed it (or paid someone to draw it), and it was published in my previous paper, so isn't it mine?

A: No, not necessarily. If you signed copyright over to the book or journal publisher, it is theirs. Check the copyright transfer form that you signed and see their terms for reuse. Also, if you or your institution paid an artist, that artist might have retained copyright.

Q: I got it from the Internet, so that means it's in the public domain, right?

A: Again, no. Copyrighted material is often posted on the Internet.

Q: I modified the table or redrew the illustration, so do I have to get permission?

A: It depends on how similar your modified material is to the original. Unless you completely redrew the figure or created an entirely new table based on the previously published data, you probably need permission. If you send us the original, we can help you make that determination.

Q: If I used some of the same methods for two experiments, why can't I just insert the text from an earlier paper into a later one and cite the earlier paper? How many ways are there to say the same thing?

A: The problem is that, again, that material now belongs to the owner of the journal that published your original experiment. Even if your earlier paper was in JBJS, this is considered "self-plagiarism." You must rephrase the text.

Q: Do I have to obtain permissions myself? If so, how do I do that?

A: Yes, authors are responsible for obtaining permission for JBJS to reproduce copyrighted material and must pay any necessary fees. Go to the journal's or book publisher's website and look for a "permissions" (or similar) button to click on.