Guidelines for Contributing Authors
Throughout more than 20 years of publication, Family Health has achieved a reputation as a reliable source of practical, credible and useful health care information for the public. This is mostly due to the experience and knowledge of our writers, who are mainly experienced physicians and other health care professionals. Just as the spectrum of Family Health readers reflects the range of people seen by a family physician, the advice given in our articles is similar to that a patient might receive during an office visit.
Published four times each year, approximately 120,000 of each issue are distributed to readers in the four western Canadian provinces via pharmacies, physicians' and dentists' offices, hospitals, health units and by subscription.
Editorial Review Process
Editorial content is coordinated by an Editorial Advisory Board which consists of a chairperson and a medical editor appointed by the Alberta College of Family Physicians. Other members include family physicians and health care professionals responsible for the following departments:
||Women’s and Reproductive Health
Family Health edits all contributions to achieve a high level of editorial style and content. Our editors make every effort to maintain the integrity of the original articles. It is the policy of Family Health to present information in the same simple, non-academic terms that family physicians and other health care professionals use in discussions with patients. Authors have the opportunity to review and discuss any major changes prior to publication.
After an initial review by the department head, submitted articles are reviewed by both a nurse / health educator skilled in writing health care information for the public and an experienced journalist to ensure that Family Health’s accepted writing style and presentation needs are achieved. Following these reviews, copy is returned to the author for review; prior to publication final medical editing and copyediting are performed.
Suggestions for Authors
- Articles should range between 1,200 and 1,600 words in length, and cover the topic fully and completely, without unnecessary detail. Some topics may require a lengthier presentation.
- Wherever possible, present information in the same style you would use when talking to a patient during a routine office visit.
- Write copy at a grade nine reading level. To do this:
- Keep sentences short. One idea per sentence is ideal. Newspaper surveys have shown that readership drops off rapidly when a sentence is longer than 17 words.
- Studies have shown that even those with a university education do not readily understand medical terminology. Use simple, common terms to describe a condition or concept.
- Use one or two syllable words where possible. For example, write ‘use’ instead of ‘utilize;’ or ‘help’ instead of ‘facilitate.’
- Use the active voice. For example, write: ‘In the past, one doctor usually cared for someone with chronic back pain.’ Avoid: ‘In the past, someone with chronic back pain was usually cared for by a single doctor.’
- As you write, imagine you are talking to a patient or client. Explain the concept in the same terms. Read your article aloud after you’ve finished. Would you speak to someone in the same way that you have written? If not, simplify.
- Check articles for:
- accuracy of medical information, e.g, do you mean AIDS or HIV infection?
- typographical errors. Computer spell checks are not able to differentiate between ‘prostrate’ and ‘prostate.’
- excessively technical material. Simplify when possible. Use words that the public will understand.
appropriate content on the topic.
- accuracy, particularly with statistics. Do numbers add up? Do percentages make sense? If appropriate, provide a reference for review purposes.
- use of the same ‘person.’ Don’t switch between ‘I’ and ‘you’ when ‘you’ throughout will do
- Provide appropriate pictures, graphs, diagrams or tables wherever possible. Ideas for illustrations are gratefully accepted.
- Suggestions for catchy headlines and subheads are also appreciated.
- Avoid controversial medical issues or statements, such as:
- issues which could offend large segments of the public (ie abortion or euthanasia).
- religious or moral stands and opinions.
- It is usually better to say:
- often/usually rather than always
- rarely/uncommonly rather than never
- Watch for stereotyping and try to use inclusive (non-gender specific) language. Keep in mind that child caregivers can be male, families can be raised by a single parent, and children can be adopted.
- Include the author’s name, credentials, and a brief description of the area of practice.
- If possible, please type the article, preferably double spaced. You may submit a disk in Microsoft Word format or e-mail the article to the appropriate department head.
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