As a medical writer, your task is not only to write scientific research papers but also to catch and correct all the errors in writing, large and small.
It’s your job to make sure that months or even years of hard work you put in writing doesn’t go waste by small imperfections that can make a bad impression on the journal editor.
Even a trifling mistake can distract the readers from the overall quality of your writing. For example, if you forget to define an abbreviation, if one of your collaborators hyphenates an investigational drug name while the others do not, the journal editor and other authorities might lose trust in your data and research document.
Medical editing is the last task in scientific writing but can take up a major chunk of your time. And if you are not careful about doing it right, it may cost you approval by the journal.
Deadlines are near and pressure intense! In such a scenario, how will you ensure timely submission of your paper with perfect writing?
Well, the only way is to have a Checklist of the things you need to check while editing your document.
1) Follow the appropriate style guide
The most common style guide for academic and scientific writing is the AMA Manual of Style (10th edition, 2007), published by the American Medical Association.
If your clients use a particular style guide, learn that style. Create different customised style sheets for different clients. In this way, you won’t have to refer back to the guide repeatedly for rules and regulations of that style.
2) Pay attention to the abbreviations
When you use an abbreviation the first time in a document, write it in full followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. After that, use only the abbreviation. However, for regulatory documents, define the abbreviation in the synopsis as well.
If you use a lot of abbreviations in your document, it’s advisable to create a table of abbreviations at the beginning of the document. Make this table of abbreviations before you write your research document. In this way, you won’t miss out on any abbreviation and save time while editing the document.
3) Have consistency in numerals
The usually followed AMA style of writing requires numbers to be written as numerals. For example, ‘3’ instead of ‘three’ except at the beginning of a sentence or when consecutive numerals would cause confusion. AMA style does not use commas in large numbers and asks to use narrow spaces between clusters of three digits (eg, ‘35 000’ rather than ‘35,000’).
4) Check for the overall consistency
Should section headings be capitalised in your document? What about the table and figure titles? Whatever be your choice, make it consistent throughout the document and always check again at the end. In addition, also check:
- Spelling consistency – the same word should not have two different spellings in the document. For example, ‘customized’ and ‘customised’
- Hyphenation consistency like ‘antibacterial’ and ‘anti-bacterial’
- Capitalisation consistency
5) Pay attention to the preferred terminology
You must use words and phrases with care in medical writing. For example, people enrolled in a clinical trial study are called “subjects” or “participants”. You can’t use the term ‘patients’ for them as they are not receiving any medical treatment.
6) Remove notes, comments and place markers
After manually editing your document, use Microsoft Word to perform an extra check on the changes you make. Any comments or notes on the tracked changes must be removed before finalising your document for submission.
Last but not least; use software to aid in your medical editing process. You should not rely on the software program alone as it won’t check the accuracy of the scientific data or craft a coherent message in a regulatory submission.
However, it can take care of small mistakes like grammar, language, and consistency of terminology. These small things matter the most and editing at this level of detail is time-consuming. Especially, it’s hard to pick up your small mistakes after an exhaustive process of writing. You seem so familiar with the text in front of you it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes.
Good software provides those fresh pair of ‘digital’ eyes and gives you the confidence to correct your mistakes quickly and easily, saving time and allowing you to focus on higher aspects of content and language.
So, next time when you sit down to edit your written scientific document, keep this medical editing checklist in mind and take help of reliable software to automate and correct the small mistakes that take up your time. Looking for experts to help contact our medical editing services experts at Cognibrain.
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