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January 23, 1981

In Praise of 'Letters'

JAMA. 1981;245(4):376. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310290044024

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In trying to keep up to date with the literature, the medical journal reader will turn to original articles. Here he will find reports on large-scale studies either confirming or discrediting accepted ideas and practices. If lucky, he may even strike a new observation, possibly one in the nature of a breakthrough.

When in a less ambitious mood, our reader will glimpse through the letters to the editor. There he will find a mix of useful tips, whether based on anecdotal evidence or derived from modest preliminary studies. These tips may suggest improvements, however small, in diagnostic or therapeutic techniques; they may provide new or revive old clues to prognosis; occasionally they may even suggest a lifesaving maneuver.

Such a mélange of tips can be found in any letters to the editor section of reputable medical journals. For instance, browsing through the letters of a randomly selected issue of the