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THE GOAL: CLEAR WRITING

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

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.

CHAPTER 1: WORD CHOICE

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

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.

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER 2: SENTENCE STRUCTURE

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

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."

Strunk and White. See Chapter 1.

CHAPTER 3: PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

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

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

CHAPTER 4: THE INTRODUCTION

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

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

CHAPTER 5: MATERIALS AND METHODS

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

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

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

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

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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