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September 24, 1973

On Felicity of Expression

JAMA. 1973;225(13):1646. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220410048013

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At some time in their professional lives, many physicians feel compelled to "write a paper" and send it off to a medical journal. Thus, we on the staff of JAMA receive some 40 unsolicited manuscripts weekly—manuscripts that fall into the categories of original contributions, special communications, and brief reports. That amounts to more than 2,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year, of which about 80% must be rejected for one or another reason.

Each manuscript is studied by one of the senior editors who may seek opinions from fellow editors or out-of-office consultants before the rejection letter is written. Of course, the reasons for rejection vary, but high on the list ride not necessarily a poor study but simply miserably inept writing and the writer's inability to limit himself to the topic at hand. M. Therese Southgate gave nice perspective to the problem when she wrote, "Unfortunately, too many authors write as though