Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Are Key Terms in a Healthcare Textbook?

New authors often want to know how you decide which term introduced in a chapter should be listed as what we often, but not always, call a key term. I just answered this question for an author team today, so I figured it's a good time to post it too.

A key term is a term important and new enough to the chapter to be highlighted in some way, usually boldface, and defined at its point of entry. If the term has been used in previous chapters, there's usually no need to include it again. However, if it's new and you're defined it, it should appear in the list of key terms.

Abbreviations may or may not be used as key terms. For my projects, I recommend that they not be included. The whole term with the abbreviation, sure, but just the abbreviation? No.

The way I'd like to see abbreviations handled is to spell out the term at first use, using a construct like one of these.

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a diagnostic test…

  • An electrocardiogram, commonly called an ECG, is a diagnostic test…

  • An electrocardiogram, or ECG, is a diagnostic test…

But that's just me.