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I have been a medical writer/editor for 15 years. As part of my work, I consult a variety of  websites for proper grammar and punctuation of obscure and current medical and scientific terms.

Most medical and technical writers and editors, as well as medical writing firms, pride themselves on the fact that they have X, Y, or Z subject-matter expertise. But is it really an essential requirement for successful writing or editing of medical documentation? This is a heavily debated subject within the technical and medical writing communities. The simple answer is absolutely “Yes.”

According to a recent American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) survey, more than 90% of medical writers and editors work for pharmaceutical firms. These firms provide clear, concise and strict style guides that writers are expected to follow to a tee. That leaves the less than 10% of us with a dilemma when faced with the wide variety of medical and scientific subject matters we have to work on.

We work for university-based hospital research institutes, private medical editing firms, and professional healthcare organizations. We are few and far between. As a result, we have to be very good at what we do, because we have to deal with a wide variety of medical, technical, and scientific subject matters on a short-term basis. Editing peer-reviewed journal manuscript submissions or writing for specific government grant applications presents particular challenges to us. However, all medical and scientific journals and government granting agencies provide the medical writer/editor with specific structural and formatting guidelines, and often provide links to expert subject-matter resources.

In addition, there are many additional resources available to the medical writer/editor. For example, the websites I most frequently consult on expert subject matters are these:

To summarize:

  • Expert subject matter is an essential requirement for producing professional medical and scientific documents.
  • In addition to the essential requirement of having an excellent command of the English language, medical writers/editors need to be familiar with the variety of resources available to them.

  • Also, familiarity with a second language is essential, since over 50% of medical documentation is written by non English-speaking researchers.
  • Medical writers/editors should always refer to the links provided by their customers.


This article is archived from the original Edits Made Easy website and is re-posted here to our new blog under a new date.