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THE GOAL: CLEAR WRITING

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Woodford FP. Sounder thinking through clearer writing. Science 12 May 1967;156(3776):743–5.

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A lively, clear article that explains the negative effects of poor writing in scientific journal articles and offers suggestions on how to improve scientific writing.

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CHAPTER 1: WORD CHOICE

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Webster's third new international dictionary of the English language unabridged. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam, 1976.

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A standard unabridged dictionary of American English. Includes clear definitions of both scientific and general terms, quotations showing how words are used in sentences, and excellent synonym notes.

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The American heritage dictionary of the English language. 3rd ed. Boston: American Heritage and Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

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A standard desk dictionary, particularly useful for words in general use. Includes numerous excellent usage notes and synonym notes. Beautifully illustrated.

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Strunk W Jr, White EB. The elements of style. 4th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1999.

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Succinctly states and illustrates rules for clear, graceful writing. Although first published in 1918, this book is still extremely useful.

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CHAPTER 2: SENTENCE STRUCTURE

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Woodford FP, ed. Scientific writing for graduate students: a manual on the teaching of scientific writing. Bethesda, Maryland: Council of Biology Editors, 1986.

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Useful for students as well as for teachers. A procedural approach to writing scientific research papers. Has excellent chapters on "Further Revision: Polishing the Style" (illustrated in excellent annotated "before" and "after" versions of three sample articles in "Editing Assignments") and on "Design of Tables and Figures."

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Strunk and White. See Chapter 1.

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CHAPTER 3: PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

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Fowler HW. "Elegant variation," in A dictionary of modern English usage. 2nd ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

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For aficianados of the use of the language, Fowler's witty and brilliant book is a gold mine.

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CHAPTER 4: THE INTRODUCTION

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DeBakey L. The scientific journal: editorial policies and practices: guidelines for editors, reviewers, and authors. St. Louis: Mosby, 1976.

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A cogent book that deals succinctly and objectively with problems of reviewing manuscripts for publication and of running a journal.

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CHAPTER 5: MATERIALS AND METHODS

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Glantz SA. Primer of biostatistics, 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

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Focuses on problems commonly encountered in analyzing data in biomedical research. Written in a chatty style.

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Gardner MJ, Altman DG. Confidence intervals rather than P values: estimation rather than hypothesis testing. Br Med J 15 March 1986;292:746–50.

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A clear explanation of why and how to use confidence intervals.

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CBE Style Manual Committee. CBE style manual: a guide for authors, editors, and publishers in the biological sciences. 5th ed. Bethesda, Maryland: Council of Biology Editors, 1983.

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