The Deadly Sins of Writing for Publication – Part I: The Argument for Good Writing
Writing well is an important life skill for authors submitting their manuscripts to scholarly journals.
The ability to write well is fundamental to success in any career. Possessing this skill takes on added significance, especially those whose work includes research, political, or administrative responsibilities. Despite the need to write well, however, many physicians' education heavily skews toward science and technology, a trend that too often neglects instruction in how to write well.
Having edited three radiology journals (Investigative Radiology during 1989 – 1995; Academic Radiology, 1995 – 1997; and the Journal of the American College of Radiology, 2003 – the present), two of which I founded for the sponsoring societies, I have witnessed this phenomenon first hand. Those affected are at a profound disadvantage when submitting their research, opinions, and thoughts for publication. To begin to address some of the more common problems I find in manuscripts submitted to JACR, I have developed a presentation illustrating what I call the "deadly sins of radiology publication." In this presentation, I advise authors on how they can improve upon their journal submissions. By turning this presentation into a series of short blog posts, I hope to expand upon the number of individuals exposed to my ideas.
To dramatize the significance of my "deadly sins," please consider this slightly over-the-top set of lyrics I pilfered from a song by Iron Maiden:
Seven deadly sins,
Seven ways to win,
Seven holy paths to hell,
And your trip begins.
Seven downward slopes,
Seven bloodied hopes,
Seven are your burning fires,
Seven your desires.
Too much? In truth, I consider myself neither godly nor satanic. I do my best to consider each manuscript submitted to JACR evenhandedly. I make mistakes. So when an author points out to me my error, I do my best to correct it. Good writing minimizes the chance that a mistake occurs. Over my next several posts I intend to cover selected frequent lapses that mar otherwise excellent contributions to our knowledge base: the sins of hubris, sloth, verbosity, thoughtless writing, and ethical lapses.
I look forward to what I hope will be a fruitful discussion and reading some opinions amplifying upon or opposing my views. As Eldridge Cleaver wrote in his 60s classic, Soul on Ice, "Too much agreement spoils a chat."