One of my ongoing projects is to revise our author guidelines for better presentation online. Most publications have formal house-style guidelines to ensure clear and accurate communication. Editors are not immune from making mistakes, but as a reader, I distrust the accuracy of information in text that is (overall) sloppily edited. It is like not wanting to eat in a restaurant with a dirty kitchen. How can I trust the quality of the food? But styles can become outmoded, and they do change based on frequency of use. Here are a few examples of BPI’s approaches to determining style — why we edit your manuscript the way we do.
Formal style guides are developed for specialty audiences. But BPI’s manufacturing audience includes scientists, academics, engineers, regulators, quality officials, IT managers, IP attorneys, and business managers around the world. We default to the ACS Style Guide because it addresses most questions we encounter. We refer to Webster’s Third International Dictionary and the nicely detailed Gregg Reference Manual. We consult with authors and advisors and search the Internet for consensus about formatting of specialized terms. And although no one knows everything about grammar and punctuation, I used to teach it at the college level.
Industry Consensus: We often have to defend why we use (e.g.) CGMP rather than cGMP and MAb rather than mAb. We base our choices on what we see in agency guidance documents and in articles published in scientific and academic journals. Sometimes we decide based on our own logic — because editorial preference is another component of house style. We make exceptions in Yearbook application notes and sponsored materials — but grudgingly.
Acronyms: It is hard to find an acronym or abbreviation that has only one meaning. “CV” can mean column volume, coefficient of variation, and curriculum vitae, for example. DS refers to both downstream processing and drug substance. So we spell many acronyms out on first mention, especially when context doesn’t make them clear.
Copyright and Trademark Symbols: That little symbol will not protect your valuable IP if you do not use the product name as a (capitalized) adjective. So instead of saying “we used Our-Gadget® for growing cells,” we edit to “we used the Our-Gadget bioreactor for growing cells.”
Use: We edit utilization to use and your case-by-case basis to case by case because we omit jargon and “weasel words” — and to save space . We prefer more important to more importantly because the latter is (still) grammatically incorrect . And it is essential to be clear about who does what, so we favor active over passive voice.
The Editor’s Pet Peeves: English is not Latin. Yes, you can (sparingly) end a sentence with a preposition, and you can split infinitives. I outlaw a lot beyond one appearance per issue. I think opt is an ugly, slangy substitute for choose, and you don’t employ a technique, you use it. (People are employed.) You do not overcome a hurdle, you leap or negotiate it. Since refers to time, not causality (because). Simple (but accurate) word choices are always preferable. We know that many of our 80,000 readers are not native-English speakers.
This is a small sampling of both what we mean by “house style” and how we arrive at related decisions. We will always consider changes to styles as times and customs change. And we don’t want you to have to figure all this out. It is our job to present your manuscripts in the best way possible, and we will always work with you to achieve that goal.