Rules for Writing a PRL

The use of the casting copy rules are be described below.
The basic idea is that the work should be understandably completely in terms of the Figures and their Captions. (Occasionally Tables and their Captions are also necessary.) As with any principle it appears to have exceptions but doesn't. With this in mind, here are the rules for writing an effective PRL to the prescribed length (425 lines).
  1. Prepare the figures first; they must carry the load. Remember that they will in most cases be 3 3/8" wide, so narrow or square figures work best. All lettering must be high enough so that upon reduction it will be 2-3 mm. You can easily squeeze in much information with lettering; this will enable the figure to stand on its own. There is no limit to the number of figures. But usually it is hard to include more than four.

  2. Next do the figure captions. The editorial style of the figure captions is as follows, the first "sentence" of a caption is not a sentence but a label (i.e., no verb). All subsequent sentences must be sentences (i.e., subject, verb, and object). The Figure with its Caption should be able to stand on its own. Don't say that important things can be found in the text.

  3. Tables are the next item. Here you must pick and choose in order to prove your point(s); again the caption can help in telling the story.

  4. Equations. (This is mainly for theorists). Prepare your equations. Never redefine a symbol. Don't use more than 12 equations. Work on their form until the equations are transparent; every symbol has an obvious meaning.

  5. References. Make a serious estimate of what references you will use. Multiply by 1.40 to account for footnotes and omissions.

  6. Now "copy cast." Use the rules on the back to calculate items 1-11 (on the back). Then the number of lines available for the text = 425 - (items 1-11).

  7. If the number of available text lines is less than 100, you are probably trying to squeeze too much in. Think about removing one figure or redrawing them. Before you start writing, plan your major points; if some of them are not in the figures or tables, ask yourself if they could be.

  8. The general rule of writing is: tell'em what you are going to tell'em; then tell'em; finally tell'em what you told them. In PRL this means that within the first three paragraphs you must present, as specifically as possible, the basic results of your work. This is not the same as the abstract which is a stand-alone specific description of the paper. The summary at the end is a chance to put the work in proper context.

  9. Finally PRL requires you write a brief introduction (1-2 paragraphs) that sets your work in a context so that the general readers (i.e., not in your specialty) can figure why they should be interested in your paper. In writing, be pecific. Avoid the passive voice. Use short, single-idea paragraphs.


Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.
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Edited by: wilkins@mps.ohio-state.edu [August 1997]