Writing--just do it

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 45, No. 7, September 2003, Page 298 Editorials

Every year, usually in February, I am taken aside and reminded by the BCMJ staff that I have to write an annual report. This is something I actually enjoy doing because it gives me an opportunity to praise, in print, a group of people who do an amazing job for our publication.

There are quite a few deserving of tribute and I do my best to be inclusive, but my effusive tendencies are kept in rein by print space limitations. So, on looking back at the past few annual reports, particularly my most recent one, I found myself bothered by what appears to be a tendency to “damn with faint praise” a couple of vitally important groups.

One group that I have thought about a lot but that still seems to get my most pedestrian focus is BCMJ authors. This group’s efforts are generally applauded with a one-liner bracketed by some gracious, minimalist praise, but these talented and committed peer educators deserve more than that.

Authors are critical to any publication’s success. The decision-making process around where to submit an article is multifaceted; however, suffice it to say that there are many possible publication venues for authors, and happily we have always been a preferred destination for many of BC’s best medical authors. Over the 20-odd years that I have been associated with the BCMJ, I have always been impressed with the volume of consistently high-quality medical writing that shows up on my desk. Certainly there are exceptions, and even with skilled copy editing some pieces are not publishable, but that is not common. For example, in the last 2 years the BCMJ Editorial Board rejected only 24% of submitted articles on the grounds of content, style, or intelligibility.

BC seems to have a large reservoir of skilled, energetic, resourceful, and committed authors—a resource that continues to ensure the high quality of our award-winning publication and which makes our lives as editors a delight. What’s more, this group represents the whole province. The BCMJ has always encouraged authorship from around BC, and we have very active authors from small urban centres and isolated rural areas in addition to the large group of authors centred in the Lower Mainland and Victoria.

However, even with this large reservoir of active authors, every now and then the volume of unsolicited submissions to the BCMJ slows a bit (as it has in the past few months), which often seems to be a reflection of tougher economic times or, in this instance, a shift in global focus (e.g., the situation in Iraq). If past trends are to be believed, however, I think that BC’s seasoned and first-time authors will use this time to re-energize their creative centre and get back to the important task of writing for their colleague’s educational benefit.

If anyone out there has been thinking about writing an article about what he or she does, what’s new, what’s different, what’s in the cards for the future, medical politics, or whatever, then sit down and start writing. It really is an amazing process; once you start, what you create is often surprising, gratifying, and sometimes edifying for both reader and writer. As the Nike marketers say, “Just do it.”

Anyone wishing our Information for Authors package can download it from our web site under “BCMJ/Guidelines and Resources” www.bcma.org/public/bc_medical_journal/guidelines_resources/overview.htm or call (604) 638-2815 to receive a copy by mail or fax.


James A. Wilson, MD. Writing--just do it. BCMJ, Vol. 45, No. 7, September, 2003, Page(s) 298 - Editorials.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

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