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Logical positioning of ‘only’ to convey what you mean

Filed on: November 29, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

In speaking, it is easy to convey what you mean when using the word only: you may safely say ‘I only observed the flowers in winter’ instead of ‘I observed the flowers only in winter’ and yet rest assured that the listener will interpret either version as emphasizing winter as the flowering season. However, a reader does not have the benefit of hearing the emphasis and may well interpret ‘I only observed the flowers in winter’ as emphasizing not the flowering season but your action: you only observed the flowers in winter—you did not touch them or smell them or plucked them. To emphasize the season, you will have to use the other version, ‘I observed the flowers only in winter.’

Virtually all style guides stress the correct positioning of only.

‘Put only as close as you can to the words it qualifies. Thus These animals mate only in June. To say They only mate in June implies that in June they do nothing else.’ The Economist Style Guide [1]

The Chicago Manual of Style [2] advises that ‘since in writing there is no guidance from intonation, rigorous placement of only is preferable to aid the reader’s comprehension.’

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage [3] puts the matter succinctly, saying that only ‘puts a spotlight on its neighbors’ and goes on to add that ‘in writing, only must be adjacent to the crucial word or phrase to ensure its full effectiveness.’

[1] The Economist Style Guide, 10th edn, p. 108. London: Profile Books. 264 pp.

[2] The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edn, p. 250 [5.182]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1026 pp.

[3] Peters P. 2004. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 394. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 608 pp.


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Science Editors’ Handbook shows how to name chemicals, plants, animals, and rocks

Filed on: November 22, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

‘What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ goes the well-known line from Shakespeare. Scientists, and even more so, science editors, apparently do not agree: the new edition of Science Editors’ Handbook [1], published recently by EASE, the European Association of Science Editors, devotes an entire section, comprising eleven chapters, to nomenclature and terminology. Whether large or small (from atoms to large animals), living or non-living (from plants to rocks), or parts or whole (from body parts to entire ‘kingdoms’ of living organisms) the handbook covers the rules that govern the naming of things in adequate detail for authors and editors to follow the current and recommended practice.

The minutiae of nomenclature will delight trivia buffs: for example, indicate a radical by superscript dots, which precede the charge indication, as in NO., (NH3).+ or that a colon between a binomial and the name of the author, as in Apis mellifera: Michner 2000 means the bee species as later referred to by Michner in his paper published in 2000. But nomenclature is not only about such trivia. For example, as Kuhn [2] advises in the chapter on virus nomenclature: ‘It is important to differentiate between taxa (concepts of the mind) and virus (physical entities)’ and ‘A species cannot become extinct: only its members can become extinct’.

The handbook has plenty to offer to editors and authors – and even publishers – in its 56 chapters, divided into six sections: editing, nomenclature and terminology, policies and processes, peer review, ethics, and publishing and promoting.

Research is increasingly a competitive business, and the handbook ends with two chapters that address this concern, chapters that researchers will find eminently useful, as is obvious from the chapter titles: ‘Maximizing research visibility, impact, and citation: tips for editors and authors’ by Emma R Norman and ‘Using social and traditional media to promote awareness of your publications’ by Sharon Mathelus and Jennifer Beal.

[1] Smart P, Maisonneuve H, and Polderman A (eds). 2013. Science Editors’ Handbook, 2nd edn. Redruth, Cornwall, UK: European Association of Science Editors. 231 pp. <www.ease.org.uk/publications/science-editors-handbook>

[2] Kuhn J H. 2013. Virus nomenclature, p. 64 in Science Editors’ Handbook [see above]

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Uncovering minor differences in reference formats, 2: books

Filed on: November 15, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

The previous post in the series discussed variations in reference formats for journal articles (papers). This post discusses similar variations in citing books (either the whole book or a chapter in a book).

The elements that make up the reference. References to books typically give the edition (if other than the first), the place of publication and the publisher, and specific page number/s if required. Watch out for books that have one title in Britain (and for the Commonwealth market, which includes Canada, Australia, India, and other former British colonies) and a different title for the US market. The contents are virtually identical but cover designs are different.

In giving the place of publication for those publishers that have offices in many places, the first place listed is the one usually given. Large university presses may have separate publication programmes for different branches: for example, a book may have been published by Oxford University Press, New York but not by Oxford University Press, Delhi.

When citing a particular chapter in a multi-author volume (different contributors write different chapters), the title of the particular chapter and its page numbers are supplied in addition to the name of the editor/s of the whole volume (see the example at the end of this post).

When a particular page is cited, the page number (abbreviated to p.) follows the title and is separated from it with a comma, as in The Chicago Manual of Style, p. 790. If more than one page is cited, the usual form is to use pp., as in The Chicago Manual of Style, pp. 789–790.

The form of the book’s title. Although titles of books are never abbreviated, some books may have subtitles. In such cases, the subtitle is also given. Titles of books are normally given in the title case but some publishers use the sentence case instead. Subtitles are normally given in the sentence case.   

Punctuation. The title and the subtitle are usually separated by a colon. This is a standard convention even when the colon does not appear on the cover or the title page (the subtitle is printed in a smaller font, for instance, or in a different colour). The edition number is separated from the title (or the subtitle) with a comma. The place of the publication and the publisher are either separated with a colon (as in the example at the end of this post) or with a comma, in which case the order is usually reversed (London: Penguin Books or Penguin Books, London).

Typography. Lastly, titles of books are always italicized. The edition, the page numbers, and other bits of information are printed normally.

Most publishers use the preposition ‘in’ before the title of the volume in citing a particular chapter in a multi-author volume, as in Krishnamurthy H S G. 1012. Silicon and other emerging materials for solar photovoltaics, pp. 36–57 in A Solar Future for India, edited by G M Pillai. Pune, India: World Institute of Sustainable Energy. 650 pp.


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Uncovering minor differences in reference formats for journal articles

Filed on: November 11, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Journals often ask authors to format references according to the style prescribed by the journal for that purpose. Many authors are puzzled by this because they see little difference between the format of references as it appears in a recent issue of the journal in question and the format they have used themselves. This post tells you what to look for in references to papers published in journals, so that the differences will be obvious to you.

The elements that make up the reference. Journals differ in the amount of information they require. The ‘minimalist’ approach, for instance, is satisfied with the following terse description:

Nature 177: 737

Many other journals, however, require much more, the fullest form being represented by the following:

Watson J D and Crick F H C. 1953. A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 177: 737–738.

Thus, for a paper published in a journal, some publishers will only ask for the volume number and the number of the page within that volume on which the paper begins; others will ask for the names of authors, the title of the paper, and not only the page on which the paper begins but also that on which it ends (‘inclusive pagination’).

The form of the journal’s title. The obvious difference is that in one style, journal names are spelt out in full whereas in the other they are abbreviated. But that is not all: note also whether the names are in title case or in sentence case (Annals of Applied Biology or Annals of applied biology, for example) and whether the abbreviated words are marked with full stops (Ann Appl Biol or Ann. Appl. Biol.). Watch out also for the way words are abbreviated: J or Jnl, for example.

The sequence of elements. Typically, the year of publication appears either next to the names of authors – as given in the above example – or close to the volume number of the journal.

Punctuation. Note whether the initials are followed by a dot or a space or neither (Watson J. D. or Watson J D or Watson JD); whether a comma separates the names of authors from the initials (Watson J D or Watson, J D); whether a semicolon separates the name and initials of one author from those of the next author; whether the volume number is followed by a colon or a comma and even whether that colon after the volume number is followed by a space (177:737–738 or 177: 737–738)—and whether each reference ends with a full stop.

Typography. Lastly, note the use of italics and boldface. Some journals use italics for journal titles; some do not (Annals of Applied Biology or Annals of Applied Biology and Ann. Appl. Biol. or Ann. Appl. Biol.). Many journals print the volume number in bold (as in the above example of the paper by Watson and Crick); some do not.


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


The Editage formatting service

Filed on: November 8, 2013 | Written by Aditya Vadrevu | Add new comment

As an author looking to get published in reputed international journals, you’re probably familiar with the cumbersome task of following the journal’s author guidelines and ensuring that every detail is taken care of. Indeed, this task is even more difficult when the guidelines themselves are difficult to understand or follow.

With this in mind, Editage has been offering formatting as a standard part of the editing service ever since it was started.

So, what does your editor do in the formatting service? He goes through all the author guidelines and understands how to make the crucial changes related to display (e.g., line spacing or margins), style (e.g., how to type out citations and references), and language (e.g., limits on abstract or paper length). He uses his knowledge of the in-built functions of Microsoft Word—still the preferred format for several international journals—to ensure that these guidelines are implemented exactly in the manner that the journal would like to see them. Finally, he follows the style- and language-related guidelines while editing the paper.

Here are some tips when writing a paper or sending it to us for formatting:

1. Before you start writing the paper, visit the journal website and check whether the journal has provided a template. When you use the template, a majority of the guidelines are followed automatically.

2. Check whether the journal has page or word limits for the paper—this way, you can decide what content to exclude/retain while writing the paper, rather than making content changes after editing.

3. Before you prepare figures or graphs, check the journal’s artwork guidelines. While Editage does offer a separate artwork service that includes formatting/modification of figures, you can save significant time and cost by preparing the appropriate figures beforehand.

4. Mention the journal name and the website URL while submitting your paper. This allows the editor to find the right guidelines for your target journal, as we do occasionally find multiple journals with the same name.

Do take advantage of our formatting service to save crucial time and energy in the submission process!


Geographic coordinates: variations in style and format

Filed on: October 28, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Geographic coordinates of a place have an advantage that geographic names lack: names change but the coordinates do not; Bombay, for example, became Mumbai but remains at 18°55′ N, 72°54′ E. But then, I was amused to find that although the coordinates remain the same, different style guides choose to render them differently. The differences are trivial – as matters of publication style often are – and relate mainly to abbreviations and spacing. (All the guides agree, however, that latitudes precede longitudes.)

I turned first to the National Geographic Style Manual [1], and this is what it says. Latitude is always given first; in most cases use symbols and give the latitude and longitude in degrees or degrees and minutes (rarely is it necessary to give seconds).

     latitude 72° 54' N, longitude 165° 53' W

     72° 54' N, 165° 53' W (note spaces and comma)

     21° N; 21° north; 21° north latitude’

Next, I consulted the guide I use most often, namely Scientific Style and Format, and found that it specifically omits the spaces [2].

Latitude is given 1st, then, after a comma, longitude; the abbreviation of each precedes its coordinate, whose numbers (2 digits) are written without spaces.

     lat 43°15’09”N, long 116°40’18”E          lat 04°59’17”S, long 01°0203”E

The style guide of American Society of Agronomy introduced a minor variation, namely dispensing with the abbreviations lat and long when both are given, and also made it clear through examples that the values are to be given in two digits (notice the double zeros in the examples below) [3]:

Use the abbreviations "lat" and "long" with geographical coordinates (e.g., 30° N lat; 89°24′04″ N lat; 30° W long). Omit the abbreviations when both coordinates are given (12°39′ N, 8°00′ W; 27°33′00″ S, 151°58′00″ E).

The two leading guides from the UK, namely Butcher’s Copy-editing and New Hart’s Rules, put the spaces back but the first of these added yet another piece of advice, namely that since the symbols for the degree (°) and the minute (′) are set as superscripts, they should be placed to the left of the decimal point as shown below. ‘This applies to coordinates in angular measure’ [4].

     21° 7′ 30″  or  21° 7′.5  or 21°.125

New Hart’s Rules mentions that in coordinates, the symbols (degrees, seconds, etc.) are set close up to the figure, not the compass point [5], as shown below. However, I notice that the comma between the latitude and the longitude is skipped.

     52 ° N 15° 7′ 5″ W


[1] National Geographic Style Manual. https://sites.google.com/a/ngs.org/


[2] Style Manual Committee [Council of Science Editors]. 2006. Scientific Style and Format, 6th edn, p. 240. Cambridge University Press [for CSE]

[3] American Society of Agronomy. Publications Handbook and Style Manual., p. 2-03 <www.agronomy.org/files/publications/style/ chapter-02.pdf>

[4] Butcher J, Drake C, and Leach M. 2006. Butcher’s Copy-editing: the Cambridge handbook for editors, copy-editors and proofreaders, p. 325. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5] OUP. 2005. New Hart’s Rules: the handbook of style for writers and editors, p. 173. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Cleaning up your writing and polishing it

Filed on: October 22, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Books on writing generally fall into one of the following categories: catalogues of errors, broad advice on writing, and style guides or manuals. This series of blog posts has written about several in each category. However, How to Not Write Bad (Yagoda 2013) is an admirable mix of all the three, wrapped in delightful, conversational prose.

The book is a distillation of the author’s experience of reading and grading the work of American college students: roughly 10 000 pieces of written work over two decades. And about fifty errors or problems account for 95% of the corrections or comments the author had to make (you can see why I used the word distilled).

The single-word answer to the question how to not write bad struck a chord right away, the answer being ‘Read’. Ben Yagoda expands on the answer to say that a) read as much as you can if you want to be a good writer and b) read aloud what you have written, word by word and sentence by sentence; the second piece of advice is offered as a quick fix, whereas the first piece of advice is about a long-term investment.

Yagoda’s book is divided into three parts: the first part shows how reading can improve writing, the second part covers the basics (house style, punctuation, words, and grammar), and the third discusses more advanced aspects such as choosing words and stringing them together effectively: matters of cadence, tone, transitions, paragraph length, and so on. The best way to assess writing is by the effect it has on the reader: ‘bad writing will induce boredom, annoyance, incomprehension, and/or daydreaming. The less bad it is, the more [the reader] will experience the text as clear, readable, persuasive, and, in the best case, pleasing.’ And the best way to learn to write like that is ‘by way of avoiding their opposites.’

Read the book at one sitting and then dip into it often, especially as you revise what you have written—the result is sure to be ‘less bad’ writing.

[1] Yagoda B. 2003. How to Not Write Bad: the most common writing problems and the best ways to avoid them. New York: Riverhead Books (the Penguin Group). 192 pp.


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Beware of ‘predatory’ journals

Filed on: October 14, 2013 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

It is probably a fact of life that when demand exceeds supply, alternative ways will be found to meet the demand with a substitute product—ways that are questionable at best and hazardous at worst. In the context of this series of blog posts, available space in reputable journals with high impact factors far exceeds the demand from aspiring authors to claim that space, paving the way for predatory journals, journals that prey on authors who are under pressure to publish at any cost.

A few recent encounters with authors who proudly showed me their recent published papers prompted me to caution the readers of ‘Publish and Prosper’. Even a cursory reading of those papers made it clear that the papers had been published, or at least typeset to make the text look like a typical research paper – there was no way to know whether they had in fact been published – with virtually no editorial intervention and with astonishing speed: the dates of submission, review, and acceptance were only a few days apart. When I looked up the website, I read a very long lists of members of the editorial board – I stopped counting after 30 – exceptionally well distributed around the globe. And yet, the journal itself offered no street address; all communication was to be only electronic. The journals assured its authors of open access and, in consideration of this service to them, requested payment.

I had to disillusion the authors who had shown me their papers, alerted them to the predatory nature of these journals, and suggested that they explore the topic further, starting with Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory, open-access publishers [1]. Readers of this blog post are well advised to do the same.

[1] http://www.academia.edu/1151857/Bealls_List_of_Predatory_Open-Access_Publishers


["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]


Selecting the subject area in your submission form

Filed on: October 11, 2013 | Written by Aditya Vadrevu | Add new comment

An overwhelming trend in the feedback we have collected from authors who have worked with us over the years is this: The editor’s understanding of the subject area is the most important parameter that influences the quality of the edited document. We have reflected this crucial relationship in the way we recruit and train editors, assign documents to editors, and check the quality of editing.

As a result, the subject area you select on your submission form determines how we handle your document and who works on it. In particular, we ensure that your document is assigned to an editor with the best match (in terms of educational background and research experience) to the specific subject area specialization you choose on the form.

While submitting a document, you will see three levels of subject area specialization:

1.  The relevant field of study: This is a broad, first-level subject area that helps us identify the possible specializations that your paper might require (e.g., “Physics”).

2.  The sub-subject area or specialization: This is the specific subject area that your research paper belongs to, and the list of subject areas you see in this field is a list of all the possible specializations within the first-level subject area chosen in (1). It helps us select the subgroup of editors with the best expertise for your document (e.g., “Solid-state physics”).

3.  Sub-disciplines/niche subject areas: As research domains are continuously evolving—leading to the development of niche subject areas and interdisciplinary fields of research—we have included a third level of specialization to accommodate super-specialized areas of research within the specialization chosen in (2).

So, the next time you submit a document to Editage, do spend a couple of minutes thinking about the option on the form that matches your area of research, and we will ensure that we find the best editor for you. As always, please feel free to write to us or call us if you need further assistance with choosing a subject area.


Today, computers are used in pretty much every field of scientific research. Computers are ubiquitous in our personal lives as well, and it's hard to imagine a time when we used to do something simple like writing a letter without the aid of a computer. At one point, complex scientific modeling and calculations also had to be done without  computers. If you've been to a science museum, you might have seen models of chemical molecules made with plastic balls and sticks. They are good to look at but painstaking to make. Science without computers must have been so hard!

We have come a long way in just a matter of a few decades, and one of the instrumental advances in chemical computing has been recognized in this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Laureates devised computing methods that use both classical and quantum physics, thus helping advance our understanding of chemical processes. The Nobel committee has concisely explained that they have received the prize “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

Martin Karplus works at the Université de Strasbourg in France and Harvard; Michael Levitt, Stanford; and Arieh Warshel, University of Southern California. While Dr. Karplus and Dr. Warshel are affiliated with chemistry departments, Dr. Levitt is a professor at Stanford's medical school.


So far, 105 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry have been awarded to 166 Laureates. In 2012, Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka of the United States jointly received the award “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.” Frederick Sanger is the only Laureate who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice. Only four women have been awarded the prize so far. While the Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to Laureates for their contributions to different branches of the subject, a survey reveals that there has been a leaning toward breakthroughs in physical chemistry and its subcategories, in chemical structure, in several areas of organic chemistry, as well as in biochemistry.