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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(10):1428

The challenge of editing articles for American Family Physician is to combine a thorough knowledge of medicine with skillful wordsmithing. To meet this challenge, medical and professional editors work collaboratively to guide articles from submission to print, while ensuring the quality, accuracy, and usefulness of the content.

The medical editors, whose expertise is primarily in clinical and academic medicine, also possess the ability to express their medical knowledge in writing. You can see more information about the medical editors in the May 1, May 15, and June 1, 2006, issues of AFP. The professional editors, whose expertise lies in communicating information, help to improve the organization, presentation, and language of clinical articles. The discipline of editing for these professional editors entails knowing medical terminology and medical style (through resources such as the American Medical Association Manual of Style), learning the names and indications of drugs, and staying current on developments in the field of medicine.

The Editing Process

An AFP manuscript passes first through the hands of a medical editor, who focuses on medical content only, not journalistic or stylistic considerations. After peer review, author revisions, and final acceptance, the articles are sent to the professional editors who perform an extensive edit to ensure the content is correct and adheres to AFP style, verify references and drug names, obtain proper permissions, and check for grammatical and content accuracy. Working with authors and medical editors, these editors shape manuscripts into the well-crafted articles that are published in AFP.

In addition, the professional editors are responsible for coordinating various regular departments in AFP, some of which they write themselves. Coordination responsibilities include scheduling, collaborating with medical editors and authors, editing, and final proofing. Departments written by the professional editors and reviewed by the medical editors include Practice Guidelines and Practice Guideline Briefs, Quantum Sufficit, Inside AFP, and Newsletter, which is written in collaboration with the AAFP Communications department.

The “Business” Aspects

As if all of this were not enough, the professional editors are responsible for much of the administrative work involved with publishing, such as tracking illustrations for articles and patient education handouts, manuscript tracking and reporting, requesting permissions for reprints of figures or tables, coordination with the Continuing Medical Education division of the Academy, accounting and budgeting issues, and, of course, other duties as assigned.

The current AFP staff includes 11 professional editors. These editors bring a total of 136 years of professional journalism experience to AFP; 97 of those years have been specifically related to medical editing. Their time with AFP varies from one to 10 years. This creates a nice balance between those with a long tenure who know the history of AFP and the newer staff members who bring a fresh perspective to the journal.

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As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. If you have any comments about AFP, you can mail the comment card published in the first issue of each month, or send an e-mail to

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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