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1. Doctor = Publisher

2. One hundred doctors

3. Train on the track

4. Behind the scenes

5. Home stretch

6. Playground

7. The seventh day

8. Appendix

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since 13 May 2005


3. Getting the train on the track
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Book format - Against the light - References - Journalistic handbooks - Styles - Key combinations - Letters to the authors - Kick-off - List of contributors - Bank details

The editorial team is complete - lectorship, secretariat, mentor, proofreaders - and the authors of your choice have agreed. The authors need four more things before kick-off:

  • A document into which they can insert their text,
  • A set of instructions for the compilation of the references,
  • Assistance with writing (style and technique), and
  • The starting signal together with the deadline.

Document for the texts

The authors must not be allowed to write at random, but must write their texts into a template supplied by you. An exemplary template can be found on the internet under www.HIVMedicine.com/chapter.doc. There, you will find examples of tables, diagrams, frames and reference lists.

Before you send the template to your authors, you must define the book format, because the maximum width of tables and diagrams depends on this format.  

How high, how wide?

Over a glass of red wine in your library, you should decide how high and how wide your book needs to be. Take different books out of the shelves. Weigh them up. Which books feel good? Above all: which books feel good in your hands? The decision is not usually difficult.

HIV Medicine 2005 has the dimensions 15 cm x 24 cm, Free Medical Information 13 cm x 21 cm and the pocket edition of HIV Medicine 11 cm x 18 cm. Table 3.1 gives an outline of heights and widths of the printed area.

Table 3.1: Height and width of the printed area*





HIV Medicine 2005

15 x 24



Free Medical Information

13 x 21



HIV Medicine 2005
pocket edition

11 x 18



* All measurements in centimetres

In order to set the height and width of a Word document, you must access the dialogue window "Page set-up" (File->Page set-up). Click on the index card "Margins". For a book such as Free Medical Information, you would find 2.2 cm for the upper margin, 9.2 cm for the lower margin and 5.5 cm each for the left and right margins.

In the menu "Apply to" (bottom right in the dialogue window) select "Whole document". Then define the margins according to the size of book required (see Table 3.3; in "Header" and "Footer" the same values are set as in "Top" and "Bottom"). The new values are saved by clicking on "OK".

Table 3.1: Page set-up*





Inside/Outside Margin

HIV Medicine 2005

15 x 24




Free Medical Information

13 x 21




HIV Medicine 2005
Pocket version

11 x 18




* All dimensions in centimetres

Experiment with the document: write a sample text, change the tables, insert diagrams, make test printouts. Put the printouts on top of the book that felt so good in your hand and hold it up against the light. Are the margins broad enough? In half an hour, you will have decided what size your book will be.

Before you send your authors the template for the text, you must prepare two more things. Firstly, instructions for the compilation of the references and secondly, instructions on how to write well.


The authors of a medical textbook should compile their references in accordance with a standard format. This sounds like a very simple statement, but is in fact difficult. It is never too soon to commit the authors to uniform procedures. We have wasted many hours correcting the references.

It doesn't matter which format you decide to adopt, just make a commitment. The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, uses the format surname, initial of first name, et al. Title. Journal year; volume: page-page. For example:

  1. Rockstroh JK, Mudar M, Lichterfeld M, et al. Pilot study of interferon alpha high-dose induction therapy in combination with ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C in HIV-co-infected patients. AIDS 2002; 16: 2083-5.

There are more details in these three lines than most authors can cope with without help:

  • There is no full stop after the initials of first names; several initials are written together.
  • The authors are separated by commas, after the last author is a full stop.
  • Up to a maximum of 6 authors, all authors are given. If there are more than 6 authors, the first 3 are named, then comes a comma, followed by "et al" and finished with a full stop.
  • Then comes the title. After the title is a full stop (rarely a question or exclamation mark).
  • The journal is given in its standard abbreviated form, e.g. N Engl J Med for New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ for British Medical Journal. After the journal comes the year, separated only by a space.
  • The year is followed by a semicolon.
  • This is followed by the volume, and then a colon.
  • The literature item finishes with first page number + dash + last page number. Only the end digits of the last page number, which are necessary for clear identification. Thus, 2423-2429 becomes 2423-9, 134-141 becomes 134-41, 1891-1901 becomes 1891-901.
  • There is a full stop after the last page number.

A farce? Unfortunately not! Do not be afraid to explain the format of the references in equally great detail. You will save both yourself and your authors a lot of work in the proofreading phase.

Assistance with writing

Doctors are grateful for assistance with writing, despite A levels, a medical degree and post-doctoral lecture qualification.


Some suggestions, very general and valid for every subject:

  • The important things come first, the unimportant ones later.
  • Structure your texts in paragraphs. Chains of sentences 40 lines long are not allowed.
  • Do not try to hide unformed thoughts behind complicated phrasing. Procedure: first, collect material, then sort the facts, and finally structure them. Do not write until it is clear to you what you want to express.

As we said earlier on, doctors don't have to be able to write. The medical faculty is not a place which insists on stylistic skill. Reassure your authors. No one needs to be ashamed of learning things he hasn't learnt before. Recommend the purchase of handbooks. The best ones are the ones for journalists.


The number of text elements which you require for your textbook is limited. Apart from the normal text (that is the text you are reading at the moment), we only used the following text styles in HIV Medicine 2005, for example:

  • Normal
  • Heading 1
  • Heading 2
  • Heading 3
  • Heading 4
  • Table
  • Table heading
  • References

Headings 1 to 4 are the chapter headings according to the hierarchical structure. "Table" is used for the text in a table and comments below the table, or for diagrams, "Table heading" is for the bold-print column headings in the tables.

The most important rule is: you must never - and this applies to your authors as well - change typeface or type size via the pop-down menus shown in Fig. 3.1 (where Times New Roman and 12 are given). Instead, you should change them via the menu styles (Fig. 3.2), There, you can allocate a text (word, sentence, paragraph) to the so-called "style". Among other things, a style contains information about type size, typeface, and also line spacing between your text and the previous and subsequent text section. If you want to change the style of a paragraph, you just have to position the cursor somewhere in the paragraph. If you want to allocate a style to several paragraphs, you must mark the paragraphs first.

The advantage of styles: later, you can alter your entire text in a matter of minutes, simply by changing type size and spacing for the individual styles. This is helpful if you are planning a pocket edition.

The central control station for styles is located under
Format -> Style & formatting.

Figure 3.1. Forbidden functions; typeface and type size.


Figure 3.2. Selection of the styles


Working with Word

Every doctor who writes thinks he knows his word-processing software. But do you really know the little things that make life easier?

  1. Open a text which you were working on yesterday and press SHIFT+F5. The cursor is now at the point where you stopped working.
  2. Position the cursor in any field of a table. Press ALT+SHIFT+UP or ALT+shift+down. The rows of the table move upwards and downwards.
  3. Press ALT+CTRL+PAGE UP or ALT+CTRL+PAGE DOWN. The cursor goes to the beginning or the end of the current screen page respectively.

In order to help your authors save time, we have put together a few tips and tricks in the appendix for working effectively with Word. (Chapter 8). The so-called shortcuts, i.e. quick key combinations, are particularly helpful and make work easier. Recommend this outline to your co-authors.

Deadline, Kick-off

You have now assembled all the elements for the kick-off of your project. As we already mentioned in the last chapter: good deadlines are clear deadlines of 6 weeks to 4 months. As an exception, 6 months is acceptable, while longer time limits than this can only rarely be justified. Arrange different deadlines with your authors, so that not all chapters arrive at the editorial office at the same time.

In Chapter 8 you will find a sample letter for your authors. In it, you will also ask them to supply data for entry into the list of collaborators, a brief CV and a photo for the website (example: www.hiv.net/link.php?id=253), as well as bank details for later payment of the author's fee. This will save you unnecessary email correspondence towards the end of the project.

Ask your authors to confirm receipt of the letter, and keep an account of this confirmation. If someone does not answer within 3 days, you must follow up by telephone.

Your letter is on its way, the train is in motion.



  • Decide on the format of the book.
  • Create a template for your co-authors. The texts may only be written within this.
  • Explain with great insistence to your authors that the individual text elements (standard font, headings, type font in tables, legends of tables and diagrams, references) may only be altered via the style menu.
  • Explain the format of the references to your authors several times. Once is not enough.


  • Anyone who is afraid or knows from experience that he cannot meet a deadline should not become involved in book projects.
  • Before you even write the first sentence, buy one or two journalistic handbooks and work through it/them rapidly. It is a lesson for life, from which you will profit far above and beyond the book project.
  • Meet your deadline! Meet your deadline! Meet your deadline! Or better still, submit your text before the deadline. This is rare, and the editors will be pleased. If publication on the internet is planned, you can then insist that your text appears on the net within a very short time.


  • Read the appendix "Working with Word" (Chapter 8).


  • Read the appendix "Working with Word" (Chapter 8).


  • Would you have believed that doctors could profit from style handbooks? You probably would.
  • Who knows what it might be good for? You, too, should buy yourself one of those style handbooks.





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