PIANO, the pub test and the posh overcoat


The purpose behind this book was to produce a resource that doctors and other health professionals could keep near their desks and refer to whenever they came across a writing problem.


These problems, I reckoned, could range from how to get started to the proper use of the semi-colon (advice: if you don't know how to use it, don't bother). The book enabled me to publish (and so claim ownership for) some of the terms I have coined over the years, such as polyfontophilia, putting on the posh overcoat, PIANO and the pub test.


The book includes sections on:

  • peer review and rejection
  • semi-colons and the passive voice,
  • brief setting and time management,
  • co-authors, agents and pedants


The book was published in 2000 and there have been many changes since then, notably the move from paper to electronic media. But I am pleased to see that much of the advice I gave then – particularly on how to handle the actual process of writing – still stands.

So have a beer, think back on your careers, read this book and see if Albert is not one of the wise ones in our business' - American Medical Writers Association Journal

'He gives you sound ways of unblocking a blocked brain'

Do you have to write papers, chapters, grant applications, talks, CVs, books or obituaries? Do you find it an appalling prospect? Are you filled with horror at the thought of writing coherent sentences, to make coherent passages to convey coherent messages?


Tim Albert’s A-Z of Medical Writing is designed for you and everyone like you. With refreshing irony leavening his knowledge and wisdom, he succeeds in putting across all you need to know about the principles of good writing.


He debunks the fuddyduddyisms often passing for correct grammar, and he gives you sound ways of unblocking a blocked brain. His cross-referencing from one succinctly explained entry (review articles) to other related ideas (editorials, systematic reviews, scientific papers, evidence based writing, IMRAD) takes you effortlessly through the topic of your choice. His own concepts such as the law of late literals, the pub test, putting on the posh overcoat and post spelling bee traumatic disorder coin a new vocabulary.


Tim Albert draws on his experience of teaching courses to provide this unique guide for would-be medical authors. His own clear and simple writing style is a practical example of what he preaches' - from the publisher's blurb.

This book was highly commended in the 2002 Medical Journalists Association Awards. 
Published in English by BMJ Books, 2000. Published in Chinese by Ho-Chi Book Publishing Co
ISBN: 0-7297-1487-1

Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus

'Not just a changed country but a changed narrator'

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© Tim Albert 2021