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A-Z of medical writing.
  1. John Heyworth
  1. Consultant, Emergency Department, Southampton General Hospital

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    By T Albert. (Pp 145; £14.95). BMJ Books. ISBN 0-727-91487-1.

    The late great Ernie Wise was the perfect example of an author so dazzled by the brilliance of the plays what he wrote that he was blind to the inherent flaws. Unfortunately, such delusions of literary grandeur are not unique and some authors seem to have difficulty in accepting that we are not all imbued with natural skills in the art of writing. Indeed, Richard Asher, regarded by many as the doyen of medical writing, prepared draft after draft of his articles before allowing them to proceed.

    In this superb book by Tim Albert, there are fascinating and invaluable insights into the creative process. The style is hugely accessible and entertaining. One of the major highlights is official permission at last to boldly split infinitives!

    The author writes with over 10 years experience of working with doctors to sort out a wide range of writing problems, noting that doctors have usually had no formal training in writing since they were 16, and are expected to publish in high status journals if they are to advance in their careers.

    There are a large number of topics arranged alphabetically from abbreviations (for some reason Aardvark is overlooked) to zzzz. The book is intended to be dipped into for morsels as required including top tips on preparing your CV, writing style, scientific papers, references, press releases, posters, newsletters and even obituaries. The previously mysterious world of writing terminology is unveiled with explanations of IMRAD, salami publication, peer review and the impact factor. The sections on how to deal with rejection and editor (dealing successfully with) were particularly useful for this author.

    For anyone considering dipping a toe into the literary pool or those who are already out of their depth, this book is an absolutely invaluable aid.