Writing Manuscripts That Get Published

Your research is nearly complete. You have results and good data to prove your hypotheses.  Your next step is to write a technical paper that describes background, aims, methodology, results, implications and conclusions.

Use these 10 tips to get started.     

   Use the three-element test.
Write the text in three phases: 1) for meaning; 2) for minimal word count; and 3) for aesthetics. This translates to: 1) Everything that’s necessary is there; 2) Everything that’s there is necessary; and 3) The result is harmonious.

   Use an outline and stick to it.
You know it works so why not do it? Writing your article will be much easier once you have thought carefully about organizing your thoughts. The ease of writing your manuscript is directly proportional to the time you spend planning, organizing, and outlining your text. 

  Grab the attention of the editors and subsequently readers.
In some media, you have only 10 seconds to get your audience’s attention. In the scientific publishing world, it’s probably a little longer but maybe not much as editorial offices are swamped with manuscript submittals. If the title or the abstract doesn’t grab attention, it may go no further in the review process, and who would want to read it?

   Walk away from it.
Once you have finished a paragraph, a section, a manuscript, walk away. For an hour, a day, a week. When you return, you very likely will have worked out a few of the trouble spots and can approach the work with “fresh” eyes.

   Write actively.
In tense, that is. Even in comprehensive and complex topics, writing in an active voice can help the reader understand your meaning more quickly. You’re the author – take authorship. “Mistakes were made,” may be true in politics but in medical writing, your name’s on the article, don’t attribute the work to some nebulous alien.

   Get to the point.
Be clear. Be concise.

   Avoid jargon.
Sure, you’ll need to use a lot of technical terms and scientific language, however, words that are not standard across fields of medicine should be avoided. Many science authors fall into the acronym trap. Even an acronym more commonly used (eg, BMI) should have a first time explanation in a well-written article. Ask yourself if a sentence of your manuscript was excerpted, would it make sense?

   Show your manuscript to someone not in the know but in medicine.
The audience for your manuscript will be academic researchers, community physicians, and other health professionals knowledgeable in your medical specialty. Ask a colleague in a different medical specialty and not familiar with your topic to review the document. Does he or she understand it thoroughly; does it flow logically to this colleague; how many reads are required for it to make sense?

   When it doubt, leave it out.
Avoid unnecessary words. See item 6. Pretend you have to pay for every word, say $10, you publish – how much is that extra blather worth to you?

   Know the publication’s style.
Before beginning an article, identify the readership of the journal, become familiar with the types of articles published, know all required elements of the manuscript. The more you emulate the journal’s current articles’ style, the more quickly you’ll connect with the editor, the reviewers and the journal’s readers and the more likely your manuscript will be accepted.

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