Style guides can be handy tools when used properly, but their application should always be informed by context.
Case in point: take this article abstract from MDLinx, a medical journal abstracting service, which I found while researching recent publications for one of my clients:
“The authors must be aware that acute encephalopathy is an important complication in children with Dravet syndrome, and associated with fulminant clinical manifestations and a poor outcome.”
Huh? Is the abstractor editorializing here? Is one of the authors of the article publicly chastising himself and his colleagues for overlooking something in their study?
A quick glance at the original abstract from Epilepsia magazine:
“We must be aware that acute encephalopathy is an important complication in children with Dravet syndrome, and associated with fulminant clinical manifestations and a poor outcome.”
Ah, that makes sense now. The authors are saying that pediatric neurologists in general should be aware of this potential complication. The MDLinx style guide — whether it’s applied by a human editor or an algorithm, I don’t know — must call for replacing “we” with “the authors,” presumably on the (not unreasonable) assumption that that’s what it typically refers to.
Editors: when applying a style guide, whether its your own or your client’s, don’t forget to take context into account. Otherwise, you risk causing a misunderstanding — or worse.