Winning the publications game Second edition By Tim Albert Radcliffe Medical Press 128 pages £18.95

Would you prefer to do the washing-up rather than write, but find you have to get something published in a scientific journal to get on in your professional life? This workmanlike book will comfort and guide you all the way from the blank sheet to the final copy.

It helps the reader to do four things. First, promote understanding of what lies behind writers' blocks. Through greater self-awareness comes the possibility of finding ways of overcoming one's own block.

Second, encourage a project planning approach to publication.

As the book says, you don't expect a house to rise spontaneously out of a pile of bricks, but many people expect to record their stream of consciousness and find a well crafted article when they come to the end.

Third, it provides information and guidance on each of the elements of a typical scientific publication.

Fourth, it gives permission to write well. As with public speaking, most of us have absorbed - by osmosis - the notion that if something is intellectually rigorous it has to sound pompous.

The fear is that plain English can't be 'scientific' or 'professional'.

As the book points out, successful publication means assessing the journal and its readership and designing the paper so that it meets their needs. This is a useful reminder to those brought up in the scientific tradition who think that facts sell themselves simply because they are 'true'.

This is the second edition. The first, in 1996, covered much the same ground, and since the key advice is the same it is probably not worth buying the second edition if you already have the first.

One niggle: a mention in the text of software packages to collate and manipulate references to take the pain out of fiddling with all those commas and colons and brackets isn't referenced.

Poor writing, poor public speaking and poor presentations are a major problem. Many good ideas and useful facts are overlooked because they can't be distinguished from the bad ideas and useless information. The language is the same. Of course, good English doesn't guarantee good sense, but clarity helps the reader sort the wheat from the chaff.

The book, however, is not for everyone : if you were born with a genius for writing clearly, spend your money some other way.

Otherwise, it's a good investment.

Dr Mark Charny Managing director, The Translucency consultancy.