Manuscript Editing

Help for trainees seeking to publish case reports

Getting your first paper published can be challenging. Although writing case reports has, to a certain extent, fallen out of favour, it remains a valuable way for trainees to gain medical writing experience. Going through the process of submitting a paper and responding to academic criticism is the best way to learn the steps involved in publishing peer-reviewed work. Publications also look impressive on your CV. However, writing your first paper, even a short case report, can be daunting.

A good case report carries a strong clinical or educational message that sticks in the reader's mind - it is not just about how rare you think the case is (and your "interesting" case is rarely that rare!). At their best, case reports provide insights into disease pathogenesis - a good example being recent "molecular case reports" of next-generation sequencing studies of single patients, which have even been published in high-impact journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine.

There are, of course, a number of good resources available on the internet to help you write a clinical case report, such as the Royal College of Physician's "How to write a clinical case report". Nevertheless, we frequently receive case reports for editing that contain problems that could, at worst, prevent publication - such as a lack of patient consent or a poor review of the literature.

We can help you write an impressive and clinically valuable case report.

Whatever stage you are at - but particularly if you are a trainee - we will work collaboratively with you to write a high-quality case report. We understand that journals prefer to publish reports that have a strong clinical message or educational component, and we will help you develop a narrative that will appeal to journals and make the writing more interesting for you. We will give guidance on how to highlight the diagnostic, ethical, or management components of the case. We will also advise on which diagnostic images to select to complement the text. We can also help you create professional, multi-part figures.

We have particular experience and success with submissions to BMJ Case Reports, the American Journal of Case Reports, the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, and the Journal of Medical Case Reports.

For further details of our services, see here.

Editing by numbers

We’ve already written about why we think hiring the services of our editors represents excellent value for money, especially when you take your own (very valuable) time into account. Nevertheless, we know that taking the plunge and sending us your paper can be a bit of a leap into the unknown, especially for people who haven’t used this type of service before. Will they be any good? How long will they spend on my paper? Will I be pleased with the results? How can I trust them? There are some pointers here to help you come to a decision, courtesy of Nature, and you can read about what we’re doing to deliver the best possible service here.

However, we also thought it might be useful to share some of our own data with you, generated from real papers that our customers have sent to us. We decided to audit fifty manuscripts submitted to us for editing in early 2013 in order to paint a picture of what you can expect from us.

This is “Nextgenediting by numbers*”:

Total number of words: 195 684
Average number of corrections per manuscript: 1042
Average number of words written as comments by our editors: 428
Average number of formatting changes per manuscript: 102
Average time taken editing each line: 32 seconds
Highest impact factor journal: 25**
Average impact factor of intended journal: 3.2
Lowest impact factor journal: 1.3**
Number of authors failing to get published: 0***

* fifty consecutive manuscripts submitted to Nextgenediting for full editing.
** Verified published by Pubmed citation.
*** At time of writing, and according to available data and feedback from clients.

Thirty-two seconds spent editing each line of text (of approximately 10 words). Thirty-two seconds of expert scientist or clinician reading your carefully crafted words, and then sculpting them some more. That’s quite a long time. Take a look for yourself by playing this video:

Of course, these data are not without their limitations - variability between editors, variability in the quality of submitted work, and the limitations of the tracking data generated by MS Word, to name a few. The acid test is whether our customers are happy. So let’s give you one or two more numbers:

53% of those papers were from repeat customers. And 20% of those customers have submitted three or more papers for editing. That’s how pleased they are, and you can read some of their reviews here.

We know you won’t be disappointed if you choose Nextgenediting. Submit your manuscript now.

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Does technical editing really improve your manuscript?

There are a seemingly endless number of hurdles one has to jump over in order to get your scientific or medical manuscript published. One of the most frustrating can be conforming to journal style. This usually means wading through pages of author instructions, re-writing and re-structuring the paper to meet strict ‘in-house’ requirements, formatting figures, and changing the reference style. While some of this burden used to be shouldered by the journal itself (hence justifying the exorbitant publishing fees), there seems to be a shift to ‘passing the buck’ to the author/scientist/general dog’s body (see here). This is epitomised by the editorial policy at PLOS One, where the copyediting is the responsibility of the author in its entirety.

So is all this editing worth it?

Well, a Cochrane review on the subject suggests the answer is ‘yes’. You can read the whole document here, but it is a dry and slightly laborious read so we’ll summarise it for you:

- peer review and journal editing improve the ‘readability’ of manuscripts
- detailed author instructions improve a paper
- structured abstracts can improve a paper
- technical editing improves the accuracy of references

The magnitude of benefit of ‘technical editing’ (i.e. those steps that occur from acceptance through to publication) are relatively small, mind you. This comes as no surprise to us. In our experience that isn’t where most authors’ manuscripts fall short of excellent. That is not why they are failing to get accepted. Technical flaws are easy to fix (and we can do it for you, see here).

No, it is those elements which are slightly harder to quantify which make or break a paper (particularly in higher impact or general journals). Are the hypothesis and aims clearly stated? Is the most significant result presented with clarity, or is it obfuscated by unnecessary detail? Is there unnecessary use of confusing jargon? Is there repetition both within and between sections? Is the discussion overly long and is this due to over-interpretation of results (usually a problem in short descriptive clinical papers)?

That is why Nextgenediting offers more than just copyediting. Copyediting is just the basics, as far as we’re concerned. Our concept is that we should firstly understand your science (by using expert editors), and only then will we be able to perform the type of structural and conceptual changes which are required to perfect your work. Sometimes that’ll be collaborative (you know the most about your work), but that’s we’re here to read and re-read until we’ve sculpted your words into something better than they were before.

So yes, technical editing is worth it, but be aware you will get so much more from our services. We know you won’t be disappointed.

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How can you afford not to?

As if thinking up ideas, writing grants, planning experiments, hiring staff, performing experiments, suffering the lows of failed experiments, relishing the highs of successful experiments, interpreting data, giving talks, going to conferences, being criticised, being commended, writing grants (did I mention that?), writing papers, supervising, teaching, marking, lecturing, course planning, peer reviewing, journal editing, and (if you are clinically trained) treating patients weren’t enough!


These days, particularly with some of the open access journals, if you want to publish you now have to be copy editor, graphic designer, computer geek, desktop publisher, artist, statistician, and expert in ethics and governance. The English must be perfect, the grammar impeccable, and perhaps most importantly, you must be able to communicate the importance of all your hard work.


You need to be fluent in Photoshop, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Adobe Acrobat, SPSS, Endnote, and Reference Manager. Depending on what you’re doing, you might need to be able to code in R or use LaTeX. You need to navigate author guidelines, file submission systems, and image and table formatting guidelines. Get it wrong and - ping! - the manuscript comes straight back.

All a bit of a heartsink, right?

Of course that’s where we come in and say, “Well, Nextgenediting can do all of that for you”. And that’s right, we can, but if you are not familiar with using professional science editing services, you may have doubts about how much time you can save, and how much the service costs. With tightening budgets and a cold funding climate, forking out a few hundred pounds can seem a little steep.

So what is the real cost of professional science editing?

Well, let’s look first at what the actual cost of editing is as a proportion of total publication costs (i.e. not including research costs). In the table below there are some indicative examples of publishing costs for a few standard research articles to typical journals. The cost of professional editing is presented as a percentage of total publishing cost. A few assumptions have been made: you are publishing colour figures, you have selected open access publishing, and you have submitted your article to one other journal (where it was rejected - a sad but real fact for most authors). Your time is worth about £30/$50 an hour, and you have spent 12 hours preparing the first submission, and 4 hours on the second. All prices are GBP, and there are 1.6 USD to the pound.


So what are the messages here?

Firstly, professional editing is on average only 10% (range 3.4%-17.9%) of the total cost of publishing. Just publishing. As a proportion of the total value of the research, it is likely to be a tiny, tiny fraction of that, for most biomedical subjects.

Think of what you get for that, with Nextgenediting at least (see our prices and payment options here). Collaborative editing, so that your science is presented in the best possible way: logical flow, clear statement of aims and hypothesis, contextual improvements in your writing. Perfect spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your manuscript has its hand held through to acceptance, however many re-edits that requires. You don’t have to worry about journal formatting, because we do that for you.

But the column to really study is the cost of professional editing vs your time. We are cheap compared to you. Editing your own work is a false economy.

Think about what that time could be spent on: writing grants, planning experiments, hiring staff, performing experiments, suffering the lows of failed experiments, relishing the highs of successful experiments, interpreting data, giving talks, going to conferences, being criticised, being commended, writing grants (did I mention that?), writing more papers, supervising, teaching, marking, lecturing, course planning, peer reviewing, journal editing, and (if you are clinically trained) treating patients.

Or, if like most of us, preparing manuscripts happens out of office hours, how about more time with the family or doing the things you enjoy doing?

Food for thought. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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