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The Results Are Not Perfect FREE TO VIEW

A. Jay Block, MD, FCCP (Gainesville, FL)
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Dr. Block is Editor-in-Chief, CHEST, and Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Florida.

Correspondence to: A. Jay Block, MD, FCCP, Seagle Building, Suite 408, 408 W. University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

Chest. 1999;115(5):1223. doi:10.1378/chest.115.5.1223
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In August, 1997 I wrote an editorial that called attention to the “Preparation of Manuscripts/Instructions to Authors” pages published every month in CHEST. In these pages, we cover almost every question related to the preparation and publication of a manuscript. Many problems with submitted manuscripts have improved, either because some prospective authors read the“ Instructions” or because time has passed and most people now know that Dr. Soffer no longer is the Editor-in-Chief.

On July 1, 1998, I began reviewing every manuscript that was ready to be published in the journal. All these manuscripts had been approved by several reviewers. I am struck with some remaining problems that are difficult to understand, but persist in manuscripts submitted month after month.

When one starts to write a manuscript, one should always look at the “Instructions” pages to make certain that the proper format is used for the journal to which the manuscript was submitted. The format for our bibliography is clearly stated in the “Instructions” and says that we list the first three authors’ names, followed by their initials, and then et al. I would guess that half of the manuscripts we receive have bibliographies that are not formatted correctly. If this is to be blamed on the typist, I would point out that the authors are responsible for the correct submission of a manuscript, not the secretary. It is possible (God forbid) that the manuscript was submitted to another journal with another format for the bibliography before it was submitted to CHEST. Common sense dictates that the author check and see if the format for the bibliography might be different in the second journal. With word processors, it is now easy to change the format of a bibliography.

I always had my manuscripts edited by someone with more scientific writing expertise than myself. Such people are often employed by the research service of the Veterans Administration or by the academic department of which the author is a member. If no editor exists at these locations, often there is a department of English at the university where help can be found. Finally, even if the author is not associated with a university, everyone has a local public school where there are English writing teachers. In countries other than the United States, English editors are available to help the writer whose first language is not English.

Why do I describe these options? Because the English writing in many manuscripts reveals that there is a need for such editing. The problem is not limited to manuscripts from countries other than the United States. I am sure that all authors believe that their manuscripts are perfect when submitted for publication; I know I did. But if I laid them aside for a month and read them again, I found that they were not perfect. The manuscripts that I review need editing, and this additional editing delays publication. Do yourselves a favor, and get the English right before submitting the manuscript for publication.

Copy editing includes more than just the English writing, however. Tables should list numbers that add up to the total. Individual patients should not be left out of tables without explanation. Drugs should be listed in generic form and be spelled correctly. Medical jargon should not be used in case reports. The data and drugs reported in the abstract should not be different from those reported in the manuscript. Tables and figures and the legends should be submitted with the manuscript. In short, care and attention should be paid to the manuscript before it is sent to the journal.

Before July, I had heard complaints from the copy editors of the journal that manuscripts were being accepted that needed an inordinate amount of revision. They complained that many of these problems should have been detected by the reviewers. While I do not expect the reviewers to detect all the English problems, the scientific problems should be found. Sometimes this is not possible and the English must be corrected before the reviewer can understand the science. Now, I review the manuscripts for both science and English. The copy editors were correct, and I am now the person complaining.




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