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SICOT e-Newsletter

Issue No. 69 - August 2014

Editorial by Andrew Quaile - SICOT Active Member & Associate Editor of ‘International Orthopaedics’ Journal

Common mistakes by authors

In the current academic environment clinicians and especially those undergoing training find that publishing articles in respected journals is increasingly important. It adds to the curriculum vitae leading to more success in job applications and assists career progression in each chosen field. This article hopes to assist the process of writing an article to the standard required for acceptance in International Orthopaedics. The comments in it are also likely to help in submitting an article to many other journals.


The first and perhaps most obvious point is that International Orthopaedics is written in English. English is a language derived from many other languages such as Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Norman French and Latin. I make the point that this is English and not American and therefore there are differences of spelling. It is often said that we are separated by a common language! Examples would be the spelling of centre in English as opposed to center. Further examples would be tumour, favour, favourable, travelling, labelling, remodelling, fibres, manoeuvre, centimetre, millimetre, aetiology, oedema, foetal, behaviour etc.. These are very difficult to write in Word as the program tries desperately to correct the spelling into a language other than English!!

English spelling which is becoming Americanised is the use of ise instead of ize in the same word, Americanized. We prefer the English version.

There are many phrases which are poor English rather than incorrect. We are aiming for articles, which make sense and therefore our preference would be to avoid some of the following:

This present paper – should be this paper or our paper if attempting to differentiate between a number of references. The paper isn’t present anymore; it is past!

As well as – is used too often when a simple and will suffice most of the time.

Operated on – should be operated upon or indeed treated as we are talking about surgery anyway.

Effectiveness – efficacy is a better word.

Surgeries – operations or surgical procedures is much better English.

Control – is often used out of context when it is referring to follow-up.

Negative lists are frequently a problem; we did not find any fruit and vegetables should read, we did not find any fruit or vegetables.

Until now – change to date

Like – meaning such as can usually become including.

With the use of – can be utilising or more simply use.

The use of past tense is often incorrect for example, previous studies demonstrated should be previous studies have demonstrated.

With the purpose of providing should be to provide.

These are just some examples and the answer should be to have a native English speaker check the draft before submission, as services such as Google Translate or Word spell checker can be unreliable.

Rules of Writing

There are some rules which most journals will follow and the rules for International Orthopaedics are no different. They include some of the following.

The title should be short and snappy to encourage interest. It should have no numbers, these should be written out in letters. There should be no acronyms or abbreviations as these should either be written longhand or not be included at all.

Numbers in the text up to and including ten should be written longhand, including writing out numbers in brackets. In other words (ten).

The text should be written clearly and fully explain the concept to be presented. It is often better to use simple language than overly complicated terminology. It is important that the same style is followed throughout. It is not unusual to have intraoperative spelt as one word in one sentence and intra-operative with a hyphen in another. Prefixes such as this may or may not be hyphenated but should be consistent throughout a paper. It is more common to use a hyphen with a prefix in English rather than in American English.

Hyphens are misunderstood and there is a dreadful tendency to invent new words by linking two individual words together. Hyphens are used to link words and parts of words. They are not as common today as they used to be, but there are three main cases where you should use them according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

In compound words hyphens are used to show that the component words have a combined meaning (e.g. a pick-me-up, mother-in-law, good-hearted).

Hyphens can be used to join a prefix to another word, especially if the prefix ends in a vowel and the other word also begins with one (e.g. pre-eminent or co-own). This use is less common than it used to be, though, and one-word forms are becoming more usual (e.g. prearrange or cooperate).

To show word breaks hyphens can also be used to divide words that are not usually hyphenated. They show where a word is to be divided at the end of a line of writing. Always try to split the word in a sensible place, so that the first part does not mislead the reader; for example, hel-met not he-lmet; dis-abled not disa-bled.


These must be provided and are key for search engines for your paper. There should be four to six of these.

Units and Quantities

Recognised abbreviations such as ml, %, and so on, are acceptable. When it comes to time there is often lack of consistency. Papers will discuss years, months, weeks, days and then turn to hrs. min. and s. It is better to have them all written out for better understanding.

Your paper when submitted will first be reviewed for its educational content. At this stage it will either be accepted, accepted but for clarification or modification by the author, or rejected. Once accepted there will be a check of the basic language of the paper and a check of whether the guidelines to authors have been followed. The paper will then be sent for a more rigorous check including for the use of English. At that stage more modifications to the paper may be made to bring it to a standard suitable for the journal. It is therefore recommended that your paper is corrected, where necessary by a native English speaker to ensure smooth progress through the acceptance process.

Springer publishes instructions to authors via

I will also be lecturing in Rio de Janeiro on this topic at the SICOT meeting at the ‘how to write a paper’ symposium.