tipology:letter

numero rivista e pagine: HSR Proceedings in Intensive Care and Cardiovascular Anesthesia 2013; 5(2): 122-123
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An A to Z of peer-to-peer writing

Authors: M. John*

Head of Medical Humanities International MD Program, Professor of Biomedical Communication Skills, Faculty of Medicine, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy

Corresponding author: * Corresponding author:
Prof. Michael John
UniversitÓ Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Via Olgettina, 48 - 20132 Milan, Italy
E-mail: michael.john@hsr.it

Acceptance: the moment when your work of genius will finally be published. Love it!
Bad writing: often used as an excuse by reviewers and editors when they can’t think of anything really bad to say about your data. Do not allow this to happen. Use the services of a native English speaker with specific knowledge of your field, and don’t forget to mention this person in the acknowledgements.
Covering letter: is the first thing the Editor of your target journal will see, and can therefore be a useful form of presentation when well written. Prepare it very carefully, and never write more than 250 words.
Draft: getting things right the first time is virtually impossible for anyone. Therefore, do not waste time trying to write the perfect sentence: it will not happen. Get your ideas down on paper, and do the fine-tuning in the future drafts.
Editors: give them what they want and always respect their decisions, whatever they might be.
Figures: these, together with tables, can be very effective for the transmission of data and need to be prepared very carefully. Elegant figures that are easy to interpret can make all the difference.
Grammar: grammar means rules, and rules have to be followed. Always. Keep your writing simple, and never translate into English from your own language. The result would most probably be disastrous.
However: better used at the beginning of a sentence followed by a comma. Avoid writing however in the middle of a sentence, where badly used commas can cause all sorts of problems.
Impact factor: we all know what this is, but a journal with high impact factor is not necessarily your best bet when you want to publish a paper. What you should be aiming for is a guaranteed reading population that will lead to future citation.
Jargon: avoid the use of over-technical language and endless acronyms, as well as pompous empty phrases that say nothing.
Key words: choose them carefully as they are fundamental for electronic retrieval. Without key words (also in the title of your paper) you paper risks being lost in cyberspace.
Long sentences: keep well away from these. Sentences should never be longer than 20 words otherwise they tend to get out of control, and can become difficult for both writers and readers alike.
More research is needed: virtually all papers end with these words. Conclude your paper powerfully by giving a message, which quite simply is a sentence outlining the implications of your discoveries.
Negatives: be careful with words like either/or and neither/nor, and remember that positive is better.
Order: planning is of primary importance when you wish to communicate with members of your peer community. Use planning methods such as mind mapping and brainstorming so that your data will turn into an interesting story that will be easy to understand.
Peer review: is constructive and helpful, and must not be thought of as sabotage. The job of the reviewer(s) is to help make your paper better for eventual publication, or to act as a filter when something bad needs to be blocked.
Questions: do not ask questions in your title, or at the beginning of your paper, as somebody might answer ‘No!’ and stop reading your work altogether. Only use interrogative forms in manuscript titles when it is the policy of your target journal, and even then think twice about it.
Rejection: unfortunately, this is a commonly read word in the world of peer-to-peer writing. Never give up. Read the reviewers' criticisms carefully, and modify your paper accordingly before submitting to the next journal on your list.
Spelling: decide to use UK or USA English and keep to the same style throughout your paper. Program your software for the type of English you have chosen to use and watch out for underlined words, which means there is a problem at hand. Funnily enough, the word anulus is almost always spelled annulus in the cardiology environment. This is a mistake. However, nobody seems to know this.
Tenses: the main verb tenses used in a biomedical manuscript are the simple past and the simple present. Compound tenses, such as the present perfect, should be avoided unless unavoidable.
Upper case: capital letters have to be used at the beginning of sentences and for proper nouns (names). Otherwise, you should only use capital letters when a word is commonly written in this way in the literature. However, remember to follow the same criteria throughout your paper, and always strive for uniformity.
Vancouver: remember to follow the rules set out in the Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals. The majority of journals use these standard guidelines, also known as The Vancouver Document (http://www.icmje.org).
Writing in groups: collaboration is by far the best way of creating a valid paper: a) together with your co-authors, gather together all of your data and write until you have the final draft, b) send the final draft to your language expert, who will clean up the English, c) arrange a meeting, where all the authors plus the language expert will be present to go through the polished version of the paper together, just to be certain that nothing has been misunderstood, d) send off what now might be truly considered the final version to your target journal, and cross your fingers.
X-men: we can all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. If you are rejected, or you are saddened, frustrated, or even offended by the reviewers’ seemingly aggressive comments, try even harder to get things right next time round. We all should learn from our errors.
Yesterday: work to a schedule. Writing is very hard work that takes an enormous amount of time and effort. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, even if that means doing it during the night.
Zombies: although you need to remember the dictum publish or perish, remember also that your patients should not risk perishing because you have to publish.

 

Cite as: John M. An A to Z of peer-to-peer writing. HSR Proc Intensive Care Cardiovasc Anesth. 2013; 5(2): 122-123

 

Source of Support: Nil.

 

Disclosures: None declared.