Our lab just received the galley proofs for a long-awaited paper, and as one of the authors I’ve been asked to help check them for typos and minor editorial changes. In reading the list of queries from the editor, I was surprised by the following comment:

“We try to avoid the use of ‘novel’ in titles. [The gene] has always existed, so not novel in the true sense of the word.”

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Yes, technically the editor is correct. But the word ‘novel’, when applied to a gene, is universally understood to mean ‘heretofore unappreciated in this process’ – and is a hell of a lot shorter.

One of my colleagues said that, practically speaking, you wouldn’t be able to publish anything if it wasn’t novel, so in fact the adjective might be a bit superfluous in the title anyway.

I don’t know. It just seemed a bit…picky.