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How to Copy Edit STM Journals: Front Matter Part I

Updated on March 13, 2013

Copy editing is an art and you need to develop a different type of skill set than an average editor in order to master this art. The work of an STM journal copy editor is to correct grammar, fix spelling (American or British as required by the publisher), check front matter including right running head, left running head, article title, affiliations, authors, abstract information, corresponding author, keywords, conflict of interest, acknowledgement, and grant information and also back matter including references style, cross citation, tables and figures and their citations in the text. Some technical journals also include mathematical equations and those also need to be copy edited. A copy editor also needs to read full content of the journal for inconsistencies and raise queries to the author and publisher wherever required. A copy editor can change the sentence to make it meaningful but can never change author's voice. A copy editor needs to make sure that every sentence in his journal is complete and makes sense. So below you can find some important information on understanding some part of front matter of a scientific, technical, or medical journal:

What are different types of casing (capitalization)?

Title case (Cap/lc), sentence case (initial cap), and caps small Caps.

What is a front matter in regards to copy editing?

This is the first part of an article that contains the article title, authors, affiliations, corresponding author, abstract, and other details regarding these elements. It is usually the front page of an article. This matter is considered very crucial for any article as it is considered a zero-error area. Every client expects no error in this area.

What are the parts of Front matter?

Running heads, article title, authors, affiliations, corresponding author, abstract, keywords (sometimes conflict of interest, grant information, and acknowledgements are also included as part of the front matter).

Running heads:

There are two types of running heads---Left Running Head (LRH) and Right Running Head (RRH).

LRH is generally the authors’ names.

The style of author names (only surnames, initials surname)
Andrew Whitehead (Whitehead, A. Whitehead)

The numbers of authors allowed in the running heads
one author (Author One, A. One)
Two authors (A. One and A. Two, One and Two)
Three authors (A. One, A. Two and A. Three; One, Two, and Three) More than three (A. One et al., One et al.)

One important point to observe is the punctuation in the author’s name, the use of

“and” or “&,” and italicization of et al.. Sometimes et al. also goes Roman.

RRH is generally the shortened article title (please note the short title should be meaningful and describes the article). Often authors provide a short title – always try to use the author-supplied short title. In case you need to include a short title:

  • see if you can use the same title, if it is already a short one;
  • see if you can use part of the title and make a meaningful short title
  • read the abstract, introduction, or the conclusion to write a short title

Article title:
Phenotypic Expression of Disease After Liver Transplantation


Phenotypic Expression of Disease

Article Title:

Takayasu’s Arteritis With Associated Aortic Insufficiency and Coronary Ostial Obliteration


Takayasu’s Arteritis

When author has provided the running head, you need to check the style of the journal in the same.

Article title:

In-Hospital and 6-Month Post-procedural Outcome of Coronary Lesion Treatment



Article title

The most important thing to take care in an article title is casing of the title. Follow the style of the journal in article title. In case of sentence case style, keep the proper nouns in Title case. In case of title case style, the prepositions (for, to, of, etc) are always small but some journals have an exception for all four-lettered prepositions (with, within, between, among, etc).

Sentence case article title:

Detrended fluctuation analysis of daily atmospheric temperature records in Canada

Title case article title:

Detrended Fluctuation Analysis of Daily Atmospheric Temperature Records in Canada

Caps/Small Caps article title:

Detrended fluctuation analysis of daily atmospheric temperature records in Canada

At times an article title contains a subtitle. Generally, the subtitle is separated by a colon, sometimes the subtitle is written in smaller font to differentiate from the main title.

Article title:

Long-Term Outcomes after DES Implantation: Get Your Feet in the Real-World

Long-Term Outcomes after DES Implantation: Get Your Feet in the Real-World

Long-Term Outcomes after DES Implantation

Get Your Feet in the Real-World

So above is some important learning material for copy editing. You will definitely need this material if you want to start learning copy editing to become a freelancer or you want train your employees and prepare them for copy editing STM journals. Detailed information on how to check author names, affiliations and linking, abstract, keywords, title footnotes, history dates, and copyright notification will be published in the next article.


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    • twowheelersindia profile image

      Ankita Awasthi 

      5 years ago from India

      It's really very informative stuff..Copy editing is an important art ..


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