Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guest Blog: The medical writer's Ten Commandments

Although I'm relatively new to the blogosphere, starting Common Sense Family Doctor in July 2009, I've been a medical editor for American Family Physician since 2004. Many thanks to my editor, Jay Siwek, MD, and members of the World Association of Medical Editors (better known by its acronym, WAME, pronounced "whammy") for passing on this terrific list of scientific writing shalt-nots.


1. Thou shalt not, unless circumstances be extraordinary, release for publication a paper that neither contains anything new nor sheds new light on something old.

2. Thou shalt not allow thy name to appear as a co-author unless thou hast some authoritative knowledge of the subject concerned, hast participated in the underlying investigation, and hast labored on the report to the extent of weighing every word and quantity therein.

3. Thou shalt not fail to place within quotation marks the words of another, nor shalt thou fail to verify the accuracy of thy quotations.

4. Thou shalt not consider that to alter the words of another frees thee from the obligation to credit that other with an idea that thou hast borrowed from him.

5. Thou shalt not publish a reference in such manner that the reader will think thou hast read a certain article if thou hast read only an abstract or paraphrase thereof.

6. Thou shalt not write to please thyself but to meet the needs of thy reader.

7. Thou shalt not publish, as if thou were sure of it, that of which thou art not sure.

8. Thou shalt not allow one part of thy paper to disagree with another part thereof.

9. Thou shalt not mix categories. [Translation: data in tables must be consistent with their row and column headings.]

10. Thou shalt not fail to verify, again and yet again, thy arithmetic.

- Richard M. Hewitt
Associate Professor of Medical Literature
University of Minnesota and the Mayo Foundation, 1957

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Haha I should keep these yen commandments on my mind. Really glad to reach this blog and your guest post. Hoping to read more from you.