Doctors for Women

The word gynaecologist is built on Greek gyne, woman, pluslogy, science, which comes from the original Greek logos, meaning word; etymologically, gynaecology is the science (in actual use, the medical science) of women.
Obstetrician derives from Latin obstetrix, midwife, which in turn has its source in a Latin verb meaning to stand – midwives stand in front of the woman in labour to aid in the delivery of the infant.
The suffex -ician, as in obstetrician, physician, musician, magician, electrician, etc. , means expert.
The medical speciality dealing with childbirth is obstetrics (ob-STET’-riks). Adjective: obstetric (ob-STET’-rik).
For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

A Note on Time Schedules

From my experience over many years in teaching. I have become a firm believer in setting a goal for all learning and a schedule for reaching that goal.

You will discover that each chapter is divided into approximately equal sessions, and that each session will take from thirty to forty-five minutes of your time, depending on how rapidly or slowly you enjoy working – and bear in mind that everyone has an optimum rate of learning.

For best results, do one or two sessions at a time – spaced studying, with time between sessions so that you can assimilate what you have learned, is far more efficient, far more productive, than gobbling up great amounts in indigestible chunks.

Come back to the book every day, or as close to every day as the circumstances of your life permit.

Find a schedule that is comfortable for you, and then stick to it.

Avoid interrupting your work until you have completed a full session, and always decide, before you stop, exactly when you will plan to pick up the book again.

Working at your own comfortable rate, you will most likely finish the material in two to three months, give or take a few weeks.

However long you take, you will end with a solid feeling of accomplishment, a new understanding of how English words work, and – most important – how to make words work for you.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

How Adults Stop Building Their Vocabularies

Then, eventually , at some point in your adult life (unless you are the rare exception), you gradually lost your compulsive drive to discover, to understand, to know.

Eventually, therefore, you gradually lost your need to increase your vocabulary – your need to learn the words that could verbalize your new discoveries, your new understanding, your new knowledge.

Ronald Gelatt, in a review of Caroline Pratt’s book I Learn from Children, describes this phenomenon as follows:

All normal human beings are born with a powerful urge to learn. Almost all of them lose this urge, even before they have reached maturity. It is only the few . . . who are so constituted that lack of learning becomes a nuisance. This is perhaps the most insidious of human tragedies.

Children are wonders at increasing their vocabularies because of their ‘powerful urge to learn’. They do not learn solely by means of words, but as their knowledge increases, so does their  vocabulary – for words are the symbols of ideas and understanding.

(If you are a parent, you perhaps remember , that crucial and trying period in which your child constantly asked ‘Why?’. The ‘Why?’ is the child’s method of finding out. How many adults that you know go about asking and thinking ‘Why?’ How often do your yourself do it?)

The adults who ‘lose this urge’, who no longer feel that ‘lack of learning becomes a nuisance’, stop building their vocabularies. They stop learning, they stop growing intellectually, they stop changing. When and if such a time comes, then, as Mr. Gelatt so truly says, ‘This is perhaps the most insidious of human tragedies’. But fortunately the process is far from irreversible.

If you have lost ‘powerful urge to learn’, you can regain it – you can regain your need to discover, to understand, to know.

And thus you can start increasing your vocabulary at the same rate as when you were a child.

I am not spouting airy theory. For over thirty-five years I have worked with thousands of adults in my college courses in vocabulary improvement, and I can state as a fact, and without qualification, that:

If you can recapture that ‘powerful urge to learn’ with which you were born, you can go on increasing your vocabulary at a prodigious rate –

No matter what your present age.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

You Can Increase Your Vocabulary

The more extensive your vocabulary, the better your chances of success, other things being equal – success in attaining your educational goals, success in moving ahead in your business or professional career, success in achieving your intellectual potential.

And you can increase your vocabulary – faster and more easily than you may realize.

You can, in fact, accomplish a tremendous gain in less than two to three months of concentrated effort, even if you do only one session a day – in less time if you do two or more sessions a day.

Furthermore –

You can start improving your vocabulary immediately – and within a few days you can be cruising along at such a rapid rate that there will be an actual change in your thinking, in your ability to express your thoughts, and in your powers of understanding.

Does this sound as if I am promising you the whole world in a neat package with a pretty pink ribbon tied around it? I am. And I am willing to make such an unqualified promise because I have seen what happens to those of my students who make sincere, methodical efforts to learn more, many more, words.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

Vocabulary And Success

Now you know where you stand. If you are in the below average or average group, you must consider, seriously, whether an inadequate vocabulary may be holding you back. (If you scored above average, excellent, or superior, you have doubtless already discovered the unique and far-reaching value of a rich vocabulary, and you are eager to add still further to your knowledge of words.)

                Educational research has discovered that your I.Q. is intimately related to your vocabulary. Take a standard vocabulary test and then an intelligence test – the results in both will be substantially the same.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

Exercise In Rewriting

The extract below is extremely difficult to follow, partly because of its high-flown style, and partly because of its unhelpful structure.

Read it carefully – it eventually yields up its meaning – and then rewrite it in plain and well-structured English.  (Make use of any relevant strategies suggested in this chapter and in the earlier chapters on style.)

It is frequently said by top managers that, were they ever inclined to ask themselves if there might be problems or opportunities deserving their attention other than those continuously arising from the daily round, they would at once send for some reputable firm of business consultants – company doctors, management professors, experts from Boston, confidential advisors, and so forth. The idea that what might be lacking is something personal to the top managers themselves, something , moreover, that they alone might one day be able to put right, would strike them as very strange. It would be even stranger to them to suggest that, not only were they themselves alone in being able to put things right, but that only they, too, could discover the avenues to successful  amendment. But since there can be no learning without action and no action without learning, if change is to be brought about by the purchased services of outsiders, independently of any involvement at a personal level of the top managers who commission those outsiders, then there can be no learning – that is, no preparation among those at present in charge to meet the recurrent challenges of the future. The enterprise will therefore become dependent upon its external advisors until it can no longer afford to meet their fees and expenses – a condition now frequently encountered. Nor is this all. The external consultant generally claims expertise in such-and-such a field, and, on this account, will diagnose the affliction (or interpret the hope) of his client management in terms of it; for a month or more everything will go as he predicts, the pattern uncovered will fit the forecast already made, and the plan of action will build upon the personal  enthusiasms of members of the host management. The outside consultants who have prepared the plan – not seldom by piecing together fragments of their past prescriptions to other  clients- will gradually ‘phase themselves out’, leaving those on the spot to implement what still needs to be done. With their wide connections across a fast professional culture, the itinerant experts are able quickly to find the super-specialist needed (it might seem) to advise upon some highly technical obstruction to success . . .

The assignment of a visiting fellow from another enterprise also anxious to do something about its more obstinate and ill-structured embarrassments has little in common with the engagement of professional experts. Were the fellows of the inter-University programme to carry visiting cards to widen their possibilities of future employment, they would endorse them in red capitals:  ‘Our strength, just like your own, lies in our ignorance of your troubles’. For, while the expert may pretend that his first desire is to see the problem as it is seen by the management that needs to do something about it, he is in his particular business for quite a different reason; the visiting fellow, on the other hand, is clearly another managers, and to learn from his hosts as much as they are to learn from him. He does not seek to prolong his engagement with his hosts, nor to withhold unpleasant advice that may prejudice the willingness of his clients to meet their financial obligations – since there are none. He is not hoping, as are many consultants, that he may be offered an appointment in the firm he is setting out to help, so that his advice will not be coloured by quite adventitious possibilities having nothing to do with the original reasons for his being in the action learning programme at all. Faced with a temporary check, the visiting fellow has no headquarters office he may ring for instant support from another itinerant expert; he will need to open up some fresh line of questioning with his hosts. Unlike the professional consultant, he will not be spending a lot of his time trying to find out what the most powerful person in the receiving organisation  believes the problem to be in order to present to him a solution based upon that interpretation; the visiting fellow will, laboriously and with little thanks, be trying to reconcile the myriad views and experiences of large numbers of his new colleagues in such a manner that these now start to suggest to him what might be going on and how it may be improved upon. While in practice the expert consultant is desperately striving to use every interview he conducts as a means of assembling every shred of an idea from others into what he will claim as his own solution, he must be very cautious about creating the impression that he is circulating as the thirstiest of learners : his official status is a teller of others, an instructor of babes, a guide to the foolish, an enlightener dispelling the darkness, a leader of the blind, and so forth. He must be extremely cautious about giving an impression that there is anything he has to learn. The visiting fellow, on the other hand, gets his authority to help his new colleagues from his own eagerness to learn by recording the explanations of what they themselves imagine to be wrong; as the supreme non-expert, he is, at least at the outset, in no position to question what they say, nor to stem their desire to say it – and hence to learn from what they are trying to tell him about that which, they feel, seems to pass their own understanding. As Saint Paul reminded us all: ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise’.  It is one of the texts upon which action learing is founded, but rarely seen on the Christmas cards from experts.

-Reg Revans, ABC of Action Learning

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

Lessons From The Masters

If you want to learn the secret of successful writing, who better to look to than famous authors? The trouble is, their lives and methods suggest that the secret has more to do with the habit of working than with working habits. About the only thing that the great writers have in common is their talent. Their working methods, by contrast, are almost as varied as their subject matter and styles.

Some authors seem to need, as George Eliot did, a specially creative mood, or even inspiration, to write  effectively, and tend to dry up for days at a time between frenzied bouts of ‘inspired’ productivity.

Others are extremely unromantic about the ‘business of writing’ as they would call it. They work away regularly and unhurriedly in the study five days a week, as though creating works of art were no different from drafting legal contracts or assessing insurance claims.

Nicholas Monsarrat, author of The Cruel Sea, apparently used to work a regular nine-hour day in his study, starting at 6 a.m. The Italian novelist Alberto Moravia would spend a brief but regular three hours at his writing desk each day, between 7.30 and 10.30 a.m.

Businesslike through such writers may be, they are not always without their foibles or superstitions. Melvyn Bragg apparently insists on waiting for a Monday before writing the first word of a new novel. The 19th-century French novelist Honore de Balzac insisted on having an unripe apple on his desk, and his compatriot Alexandre Dumas the elder, creator of The Three Musketeers, would always wear bedsocks when writing. The British novelist and poet Muriel Spark writes exclusively on pale blue jotters, whereas Roald Dahl favours large yellow notepads.

Some authors need absolute  privacy and silence in order to concentrate properly. (The French novelist Marcel Proust had to seclude himself in a cork-lined room before he could settle into a creative working mood.) Others seem to need the hustle and bustle of daily life to release their creative juices, and might do their best writing at a table in a boulevard café.

Some authors write, partly at least, in order to cope with or drive away feelings of depression – Anthony Burgess and the late Georges Simenon, among them. Some writers actually seem to thrive on unhappiness – Franz Kafka remains the most famous example, perhaps.

But others write best when they are most at peace with themselves and the world: ‘You write better with your problems resolved’ is the view of one recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

You write better in good health. You write better without [unhappy] preoccupations. You write better when you have love in your life. There is a romantic idea that suffering and adversity are very useful to the writer. I don’t agree at all.

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez,

Some authors write extremely quickly and fluently. Dr Johnson completed his short novel  Rasselas in the space of a single week. Balzac could write 200 pages a week when the need arose; so too could the French novelist Stendhal. Others write with excruciating slowness: another great 19th-century novelist, Gustave Flaubert, often managed no more than two pages in a week – sometimes only a single page. His classic novel  Madame  Bovary took him five years of painful full-time writing.

Some authors, such as Anthony Burgess or the late A.J.P. Taylor, happily draft original material directly on a typewriter or word processor. Others, such as Roald Dahl and Fay Weldon, Iris Murdoch and Athol Fugard, seem to need the feel of a pencil or pen in the hand, as if there were some mystical connection between the moving hand and the creative mind.

Some authors disctate their work to a secretary rather than writing it up themselves – Sir Walter Scott, Anthony Trollope, and Joseph Conrad all started doing this towards the end of their careers. Ernest Hemingway did a great deal of his writing while standing up – resting the paper on top of a filing cabinet, for instance. The English author A.N. Wilson types away while sitting up in bed.

If the authors themselves differ so widely in their working methods, what guidance can the everyday writer derive from them?

Perhaps just this: to take writing very seriously , and to work intensely at getting it right – that is, at expressing your thoughts as accurately and clearly as possible.

And one more thing: in the great divide between businesslike ‘craftsman’ authors and moody ‘artistic’ authors, between perspiration and inspiration, the everyday writer should come down firmly on the side of the businesslike approach. The arty or romantic approach may produce greater poetry or deeper novels, but for everyday writing it falls flat.

Of all businesslike authors, Anthony Trollope’s daily routine remains the best-known and perhaps the most impressive. His Auto-biography records his amazing application and efficiency. For most of his writing life, he had a full-time job as a civil servant with the Post Office, so much of his enormous output (over 60 books, many of them three-volume novels) was the product of his leisure hours.

Hardly leisurely – alongside his Post Office duties and a busy social life, he still found 15 to 20 spare hours a week for his writing. Day after day, year after year, he would sit at his desk between 5.30 and 8.30 in the morning, writing 1000 words an hour. (He planned each novel thoroughly before writing it up – an outline layout on paper, a fully developed scenario in his head. And he kept detailed progress charts to ensure that he stayed on schedule.)

The Autobiography outraged many critics and authors of the day. Its no-nonsense view of novel-writing took all the glamour and mystique out of the art – or the craft, as Trollope preferred to call it. He argued that the writer’s life should follow much the same pattern as a shoemaker’s or upholsterer’s or undertaker’s, and should be ‘bound by rules of labour similar to those which an artisan or a mechanic is forced to obey’. No resting on laurels, no giving in to occasional moods or indolence. Just getting on with the job, and getting it right.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

That serves as a fine motto for anyone engaged in any writing task.

The Mixed Metaphor and its Relatives

A succession of metaphors or similes drawn from different fields of comparison sometimes produces a laughably  clashing effect – even when they are dead or half-dead metaphors.

There are many celebrated examples that make the point without need of comment:

X We stand on the abyss – let us march forward together.

X You are sitting on the fence and burying your head in the sand.

Mr  Ian Smith, when Prime Minister of Rhodesia, reportedly said:  X Are we going to sit back and take this lying down? And Sam Goldwyn the film producer apparently once complained that  X Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg. Similarly:

X West Berlin is an oasis of democracy in a sea of communism.

-John Hosken, The Listener

X So let me look  at the roots of a few sacred cows.

-Sir John Donaldson, New Law Journal

X That’s an invitation to cock my leg over a wild goose and go off into a mare’s nest.

-Lord Bancroft, BBC Radio 4

Perhaps the most famous example of bizarrely mixed metaphors is that attributed to an 18th-century Irish  politician:

X Mr Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I’ll nip him in the bud.

-attributed to Sir Boyle Roche, quoted in

The Oxford Book of Quotations

In a series of letters to The Times in 1989, readers listed favourite mixed metaphors that they had come across over the years.

An American participant at an Oxford seminar, for instance, earnestly declared that ‘Chaucer stands with one foot in the Middle Ages, while with the other he salutes the rising dawn of the English Renaissance.’

The magazine Community Care recently described the department of Social Security as a ‘backwater clogged with hot potatoes’.

At a scientific meeting, one scientist accused another of ‘trying to bolster up the scaffolding of a collapsing hypothesis with a red herring’.

The Mixed Metaphor has two well-known cousins, both discussed elsewhere – Malapropism and the unintended pun. It also has three rather more obscure cousins – the Dubious Metaphor, the Inappropriate Metaphor, and the Mixed Idiom (or Mixed Cliché) – which deserve a brief mention here.

The Dubious Metaphor is one that does not quite work; for example, ? defusing tension.

You can ease or reduce tension, or perhaps defuse a tense situation, but hardly ?

Defuse tension – the two ideas, like oil and water, simply refuse to mix properly .

That example is taken from a BBC radio programme, as are all these other dubious combinations:

?? unravelling highlights

?? chalking up a landmark

?? sabotaging the atmosphere

?? a last-ditch summit

?? ironing out teething troubles

The inappropriate Metaphor , next: like the Dubious Metaphor, it usally contains dead or half-dead metaphors. The clash this time is between the metaphor and the context:

? There has been a spate of  droughts in recent years.

? That man in the wheelchair is always jumping to conclusions.

?? He goes around stirring up apathy.

? Your insurance claim is proceeding like a house on fire.

Here is an 18-century example, from a judge, later to be Lord Chief Justice of England; convicting a butler of stealing wine, the Judge apparently said:

X You burst through all restraints of religion and morality, and have for years been feathering your nest with your master’s bottles.

-Lord Kenyon, quoted in

George A. Morton and D.M. Malloch,

Law and Laughter.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

The Structure of a Joke By Good Comedian

The good comedian builds a joke up carefully: all the necessary details appear one by one (and sometimes some unnecessary details too, partly to distract the listeners from predicting the ending); the events move forward towards a climax; and everything falls suddenly into place when the point of the joke finally emerges, like a revelation, in the punch line.

How not to structure a joke is the subject of the following parody . The teller, in her impatience to raise a laugh, delivers the punch line at the beginning rather than the end:

Anyway, there’s this old  Jewish man who is trying to get into the synagogue during the Yom Kippur service, and the usher finally says to him, ‘All right, go ahead in, but don’t let me catch you praying.’ (PAUSE) Oh, did I mention that the old man just wants to go in and give a message to someone in the synagogue? He doesn’t actually want to go into the synagogue? He doesn’t  actually want to go into the synagogue and pray, you see.

(PAUSE. FROWN)Wait a minute. I don’t know if I mentioned that the old man doesn’t  have a ticket for the service. You know how crowded it always is on Yom Kippur, and the old man doesn’t have a ticket, and he explains to the usher that he has to go into the synagogue and tell somebody something, but the usher isn’t going to let him in without a ticket. So the old man explains to him that it’s a matter of life and death, so then the usher thinks it over and he says to the old man, ‘All right, go ahead in, but don’t let me catch you praying .’ (PAUSE. FROWN. STAND AND BEGIN EMPTYING ASHTRAYS) Ach, I don’t think I told it right, Al, you tell it.

-the mother, in Dan Greenburg (U.S.),

How to Be a Jewish Mother

Crucial though the joke’s structure is for the effectiveness of the joke, it is in fact a rather unusual structure. Like suspense stories, jokes are designed to keep the reader or listener guessing. The structure serves to conceal the point of the text . . . until the last minute, that is. In most texts,

however – from telephone message to Annual Reports – the point needs to be revealed at every stage. Constant clarity, rather than obscurity, is the aim. The object is to keep the reader informed, not to keep him guessing. He wants the punch line right away, as it were: only then will he begin to take a proper interest in the details, the explanation, and the background.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

The Structure of Nursery Rhymes In An Unfamiliar Guise

Here are some familiar nursery rhymes in an unfamiliar guise – as if composed by a poet who lacked the patience to structure his ideas properly before committing them to paper. Silly, of course. Yet so much everyday writing betrays a similar thoughtlessness.

For the original, well-structured versions of the nursery rhymes.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again,      following his fall. He had been sitting on a wall prior to falling.

There was a crooked man who found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. This was while he was walking a crooked mile. He lived together in a little crooked house with a crooked cat and a crooked mouse which the crooked cat had caught. The crooked man had bought the crooked cat with the sixpence, you see.

Hey diddle diddle!

The little dog laughed

To see the fun –

i.e.  the cow’s jumping over the Moon.

Another effect was that the dish ran away with the spoon.

Maybe the cat and the fiddle also had something to do with it all.

Some birds began to sing

When a pie was opened.

Wasn’t that a dainty dish

To set before the king?

There were four-and-twenty of them birds, I mean.

Blackbirds actually. Did I mention

They’d been baked in the pie?

No? Well you can’t be expected to remember everything

If all they pay you for your song is sixpence

And a pocketful of rye.

As a contrasting exercise – contrasting  in scale and skill – try to work out the structure of a long magazine article or broadcast. Take notes as you proceed, and then draw up a diagram or summary revealing the bones and ligaments of the structure.

Here, for instance, is a brief description of a typical edition of Newsdesk in mid-1990 – a half-hour news programme on the BBC World Service, beginning at midnight GMT.

Five main features go to make up the programme, though they are hardly evenly weighted. In reverse order: the last three – the Press Review, Financial News, and Sports News – take only about two minutes each. The feature before that – News about Britain – takes roughly six minutes. The opening feature – World News – dominates the programme, taking up 15 or 16 minutes.

The World News is itself divided into three sections, in a particularly helpful way:

First come four or five ‘news headlines’ covering the main stories (about 30 seconds).

Then more detailed versions of each of those stories, and a few others (totaling about five minutes).

Then ‘our correspondents’ reports’ – consisting of in-depth coverage of the main stories, and some other topical stories, in the form of recorded reports by the BBC journalists based in the various countries involved(totalling about 12 minutes).

Especially helpful to the listener is the constant ‘signposting’ by the presenters – repeatedly mentioning the programme, the station, the time, and so on. In the ‘correspondents’ reports’ phase, for instance, the co-presenter begins with an outline of the story each time, and identifies the journalist and the

city – typically repeating these markers at the end of each report.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit