Did you have a formative style guide? One that isn’t necessarily required for your work, but has made such an impression, that you return to it often? For me, it’s The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style by Bryan A. Garner, which first published when I was in college and just was starting to take writing and editing seriously. I remember reading a review that referred to it as one of the few style guides that was enjoyable enough to read cover to cover, so I did just that (I don’t remember for sure, but it was likely this David Foster Wallace review from Harpers).
Now, I can’t claim to have retained everything I read (and I’m just now realizing that writing about style guides is making me very self-conscious about my writing), but there are a number of entries that have stuck with me. One of these is “skunked terms”, which Garner coined and refers to words where the meaning is in transition: whether you use the traditional or new usage, you’re likely to annoy a segment of your readership.
An example he provides, and one that continues to be skunked, is “data” or more specifically, “is ‘data’ plural or singular?” As Garner puts it “whether you write data are or data is, you’re likely to make some readers raise their eyebrows… Few people use it as a plural, yet many know that it technically is a plural.” Hence, skunked. I still see this debated on social media some 20 years later, although it seems that the singular collective noun usage is winning. Which is probably fine: when was the last time you used the word “datum” anyway?
This gets at one of the elements I appreciate about Garner’s guide: he balances the perspective/descriptive divide elegantly (and entertainingly), because in the end, clarity is key.
I thought of this while reading Peter Olson’s recent feature, The Case for Journal Style Guides. There are many quite excellent major style manuals, including of course CSE’s Scientific Style and Format, but as Peter argues, supplementing them with an in-house journal style guide can be essential to producing high-quality articles for you specific readership. For example, there may be abbreviations that are so commonly used in your discipline that applying the standard expansion rules would seem patronizing. Or maybe you have a less formal, more personal article type specific to your journal where the strict usage rules of a scientific research article would seem stiff and awkward. After making his case, Peter then provides some helpful tips for actually “wrangling these rules into a manual that is at once efficient, efficacious, and user-friendly.” Style guides are just that, guides, and a great guide is always going to be one that knows exactly what you need.
Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor
As a reminder, it’s time to renew your CSE Membership for 2020! CSE Members can login to the Members Only Area with their member login credentials to renew their membership and continue to access all of Science Editor and the many other benefits of CSE.
Resource of the Month
Speaking of data, the STM Association has declared 2020 the “STM Research Data Year” in an effort to promote more effective data sharing. To that end, they have created a special site (https://www.stm-researchdata.org) with tips for getting started, resources and references, and a list of meetings and workshops they’ll be holding throughout the year. Even if you have implemented a data sharing policy for your journal or portfolio, this site appears to be a useful resource to ensure you’re up to date on best practices.
Early Online Article
In the life sciences, being able to replicate research requires not just data sharing but also access to the specific biological materials used to collect said data. Traditionally, the standard line has been that authors make these materials “available upon request” but that’s been problematic for all the reasons you can probably guess. Instead, in a recently published article, Angela Abitua shares How Life Science Journals Can be Champions of Better Material Sharing and Reporting. Not only is this a helpful guide to the many material sharing resources available, Angela provide sample text so you can update your author instructions with ease today (no pressure).
From the Archive
We’re on a data sharing roll! If you’re looking for an introduction to one of the most common data sharing guidelines, the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) Data Principles, and the ways that journals can enable them for authors, be sure to check out the following Science Editor article from 2018: Data Sharing and Citations: New Author Guidelines Promoting Open and FAIR Data in the Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences
Reminder: 2020 CSE Annual Meeting Registration is Open
If you haven’t already, be sure to register for the 2020 CSE Annual Meeting, May 2-5 in Portland, Oregon. This is shaping up to be a great meeting, but here’s a checklist in case you need proof:
- Great keynote speaker? Brian Nosek, Center for Open Science. Check!
- Great plenary speaker? Maryam Zaringhalam, NLM Office of Strategic Initiatives. Check!
- Great host city? Portland, Oregon. Check!
- Great program featuring over two days of exciting sessions, events, and discussions? Or course. Check!
Extra Early Bird Registration ends this Friday (2/14), so don’t delay.
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