5 editing tips for medical writers
13 June 2022
You’ve spent months crafting an intricate medical writing document with your team. Although it’s been viewed and reviewed by many people, small typos and inconsistencies still jump out at your reader. They weaken your credibility. Doesn’t this seem unfair when you’ve spent so long on the research, ideas and content?
If you’re a medical writer or a medical editor, you have a crucial role to play in ensuring the accuracy, clarity and consistency of your organization’s manuscripts, as well as their compliance with key industry standards and guidelines.
As we heard at Ideagen’s webinar with the American Medical Writers Association, while medical writers are experts in writing and editing, they often struggle to collaborate efficiently on complex documents due to the number of editors involved in a single review. We frequently hear about these problems:
- Version control (with some companies keeping so-called “final” versions in multiple different locations!).
- The laborious process of consolidating edits and comments from multiple copies of a manuscript.
- Inconsistencies in hyphenation usage, abbreviations and spelling.
In this blog, we look at five medical writing tips that you can use to simplify your editing process and assure a high standard of quality.
5 medical writing tips
Use PleaseReview to enhance the quality, transparency and focus of your document reviews.
PleaseReview, a document collaboration tool for medical writers, allows multiple authors and reviewers to collaborate on a document simultaneously in a single platform. Delivering secure version control, it ensures that all authors and reviewers are working on the latest and greatest version of a manuscript—with real-time updates!
Kim Norris, Director of Medical Writing at UniQure, a global leader in gene therapy, explains why she has used PleaseReview for over ten years and why it an essential tool for her role:
- Time savings of circa 65%. For Kim and others who work in the area of drug development, editing at pace is crucial for ensuring the timely delivery of completed documents—so that life-changing drugs can get to patients quickly. PleaseReview typically reduces the time spent on document reviews by at least 65%!
- Easy to identify, and resolve, conflicting edits. “PleaseReview identifies conflicting edits, allowing the medical writer the opportunity to resolve them during the review using accept, reject, revise, or merge features. The resolution is incorporated into the document in real time, allowing participants to focus on unresolved items going forward.”
- Keeps reviewers in their lane. “Managing the review process is really managing the people. The ability to lock-in sections of text for editing – down to specific paragraphs – ensures that reviewers focus on the sections where you require their input.”
- Visibility and granular permissions. “PleaseReview allows for customizable visibility of edits, comments, and different sections of a document and configurable permissions and capabilities of all participants.”
- Automatic capturing of activity. “The reconciliation report provides automated documentation of all review activities, thus eliminating the need for manual documentation of things like review participation and changes, comments, and resolutions.”
- Prevent time being wasted on unnecessary points. “Comments, edits or questions beyond the scope of a particular functional area reviewer can be replied to and then closed by the medical writer without having to engage in time-consuming or unnecessary discussions.”
Since being introduced to this software years ago, I have made its acquisition a requirement at every organization for which I’ve led Medical Writing.
Save time and control quality with a specialist medical spellchecker
Experienced medical writers will know that conventional spellcheckers like to flag niche medical terms as misspelled because they do not recognise them. A Medical spellchecker, such as the one by Stedman’s, is a handy tool for medical writers.
When it is downloaded as a plug-in for MS Word, Stedman’s medical dictionary is integrated into the existing spell-checking dictionary. This saves medical writers time looking words up and they are more likely to identify the true misspellings.
Quickly check consistencies in language use
Another handy tool for medical writers is PerfectIt, a proofreading and editing tool that many medical writers use to check consistency in hyphenation usage, locate undefined abbreviations, enforce style rules and more.
If you don’t have access to PerfectIt, you can use the Ctrl + F keyboard shortcut to search quickly for words in a document. Say you wanted to check if you had consistently hyphenated a term, you could type in the first part of the term (pre-hyphen) into the navigation to quickly check how it appears across the document. You can do the same to check consistencies in capitalisation or spelling.
Edit two different pages at once
Medical writers are responsible for ensuring correct and consistent data across graphics, tables and texts. If a figure is on a different page of a document, it can be confusing and time-consuming to go back and forth between pages.
This problem can be solved by opening another viewing window in MS Word (View > New Window). Place both windows side by side on your screen and you can edit both pages at once!
Use the ‘Styles’ function to save time on formatting
When working with a long and complex document, the ‘Styles’ function of Word can be a real stressbuster. Say you wanted to change the size of all the chapter titles across your manuscript, which you had categorised in Word as ‘Heading 2’, all you would need to do is go to Styles > Heading 2 > Modify to change the font size.
If you changed your mind over the course of the project and decided that all your subtitles should be bolded instead of non-bolded, you could change all of them—no matter how many there are—in seconds by simply modifying the ‘Subtitle’ style and applying bold to the text. As styles cascade automatically throughout the whole document, you do not need to waste time on combing through every page to make the formatting changes manually.
Discover why medical writers use PleaseReview
Are you ready to discover why 85% of the top 25 global pharmaceutical companies, four of the top five CRO’s and four of the top five medical device companies use PleaseReview for medical writing and editing?Download the success stories