Permanent features of the layout, such as the name of the bulletin, will already have been defined in the design of the bulletin. But style issues, such as grammar, spelling and punctuation must also be dealt with consistently in each new issue. For example, what name do you use to describe a new class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: COX-2 inhibitors or coxibs?; do you always write out the name of an institution such as the European Medicines Agency, or is the acronym EMEA alone sufficient? Do you call clinical trials by their acronyms (e.g. VIGOR) and how do you include them in the index so that they can be retrieved easily? (See Box 9.1). The way a bulletin represents certain things needs to be consistent between the articles in an issue and between issues. To achieve this consistency, it is good practice to have a house-style guide in the form of a sheet or a booklet containing style ‘rules’ and to incorporate in it all new decisions about style issues when they arise. It is a good idea for a new bulletin to adopt an established bulletin’s style guide while it develops its own (you could do this by contacting the editor of an ISDB member bulletin via http://www.isdbweb.org). Editors will need to refer to the house style during the editorial process, and it can also be used when the final checks are made during the production process.
Box 9.1 Examples of rules in a house-style guide
• Use of abbreviations, e.g. RCT, NSAID. (In general, try to avoid these).
• Drug names, e.g. beta-blockers or ß-blockers; adrenoceptors or adrenoreceptors; whether to use the generic name alone, or together with the trade name(s), whether to include the pharmaceutical company’s name.
• Drug doses, e.g. whether to write units in full or abbreviated, e.g. micrograms or mg.
• Use of italics (e.g. for genus and species names for bacteria and fungi).
• Numbers: when to write out in full.
• How to cite references.