Context: Technical editing supposedly improves the accuracy and clarity of journal articles. We examined evidence of its effects on research reports in biomedical journals. Methods: Subset of a systematic review using Cochrane methods, searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, and other databases from earliest entries to February 2000 by using inclusive search terms; hand searching relevant journals. We selected comparative studies of the effects of editorial processes on original research articles between acceptance and publication in biomedical journals. Two reviewers assessed each study and performed independent data extraction. Results: The 11 studies on technical editing indicate that it improves the readability of articles slightly (as measured by Gunning Fog and Flesch reading ease scores), may improve other aspects of their quality, can increase the accuracy of references and quotations, and raises the quality of abstracts. Supplying authors with abstract preparation instructions had no discernible effect. Conclusions: Considering the time and resources devoted to technical editing, remarkably little is know about its effects or the effects of imposing different house styles. Studies performed at 3 journals employing relatively large numbers of professional technical editors suggest that their editorial processes are associated with increases in readability and quality of articles, but these findings may not be generalizable to other journals.
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