How to Raise a Medical Writer

Tom Lang, MA
Tom Lang Communications

Finely crafted medical writing-
Because publication is the final stage of research.

12 February 2003

PO Box 1257, Murphys, CA 95247, USA
TEL: 209-728-3057 FAX: 209-728-3497

gLearning is a change in knowledge or skill as a result of study, instruction, or experience.h

1. What should writers and editors study?

2. How should they be instructed?

3. What experiences should they have?

1. What Topics Should Writers and Editors Study?


American Medical Writers Associationfs (AMWA) Core Curriculum









 AMWAfs Advanced Curriculum


University of Chicago
Medical Writing & Editing
Certificate Programs

CERTIFICATE (complete 4 of the 5)


Tomfs Ideal Program:
7 Basic Courses

  1. An Overview of Biomedical Research and Scientific Communications

  2. Medical Editing

  3. Reporting Statistics in Medicine

  4. Data and Visual Displays (Tables, Graphs, and Illustrations)

  5. Communication Theory and Research

  6. Medical Writing

  7. Publication Design and Production


1. An Overview of Biomedical Research and Publications

2. Medical Editing

3. Reporting Biostatistics

4. Data and Visual Displays

5. Communication Theory and Research

6. Medical Writing

7. Publication Design and Production

Tomfs Ideal Program:
Areas of Specialization

  1. Scientific publications (books and journals)

  2. Regulatory (pharmaceutical) writing

  3. Public relations, marketing, and advertising

  4. Medical/Physician education

  5. Patient education and health education

  6. Multimedia production

  7. Web-based publications

Tomfs Ideal Program:
Specialized Courses

Writing and Editing Skills to be Developed in Each Course

 2. How Should Writers and Editors be Instructed?

 AMWA Workshop Format


University of Chicago Course Formats


Tomfs Ideal Formats


On-The-Job Training

3. What Experiences Should Writers and Editors Have as They Learn?



Final Thoughts


1. The problem with learning medical writing is the way writing is taught in school.

2. Teach that information should go from those who have it to those who need it.

School: Information often goes from a student who is learning the topic to a teacher who already knows the topic.
Sciences: information must go from knowledgeable authors to less-knowledgeable readers for science to develop.

3. Teach that writing can be evaluated by how well it meets the needs of the reader.

School: writing is usually evaluated for spelling, grammar, and how well the teacher believes the student understood the topic.
Sciences: writing is evaluated by how much it helps others do their work. 

4. Teach that writing is as important for what it does as for what it is.

School: writing is important for its own sake; that is, students must read the novel itself, not an analysis about the novel
Sciences: writing is important for what it allows others to do

5. Teach that writing is for communication, as well as for personal expression.

School: students learn to express their personal thoughts and opinions in writing as a way to grow intellectually (they do gwriter-basedh writing)
Sciences: scientists must learn to communicate technical information in writing as part of their scientific activities (they must do greader-basedh writing)



The Secret to Medical Writing: 

Have something to say. 

Say it. 




 Resources For Teaching Medical Writing



American Medical Writers Association (AMWA)
40 West Gude Dr. #101
Rockville, MD 20850-1192

Council of Science Editors (CSE)
1250 Roger Bacon Drive, Suite 8
Reston, VA 20190-5202

European Medical Writers Association (EMWA)
Philipa Clow, Association Secretary
40 High Street, Northwood
United Kingdom



American Medical Association. AMA Manual of Style, 9th Ed.   Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1998.

American Medical Writers Association. Biomedical Communication: Selected AMWA Workshops.  Bethesda, MD: American Medical Writers Association, 1994.

American Medical Writers Association.  Essays for Biomedical Communicators: Volume 2 of Selected AMWA Workshops.  Bethesda, MD: American Medical Writers Association, 1997.

Briscoe MH.  Preparing Scientific Illustrations, 2nd edition.  New York: Springer, 1995.

Council of Science Editors.  Scientific Style and Format, 6th Ed. Cambridge:  University of Cambridge Press, 1994

Day RA. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Third Edition. New York: Oryx Press, 1988.

Eddy DM.  A Manual for Assessing Health Practices & Designing Practice Policies.  Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 1992.

Gastel B.  Health Writerfs Handbook.  Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1998.

Huth EJ. How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences.  Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1982.

Lang T, Secic M.  How to Report Statistics in Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers.  Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 1997.  360 pages.

Morgan PM. An Insider's Guide for Medical Authors and Editors.   Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1986.

Rowntree D. Statistics Without Tears. A Primer for Non-mathematicians.  New York: Charles Scribnerfs Sons, 1981.

Schwager E.  Medical English Usage and Abusage.  Phoenix, Arizona: The Oryx Press, 1991.

Woodford FP.  How to Teach Scientific Communication. Reston, VA:  Council of Science Editors, 1999.  (Order from CSE at the address above.)

Zeiger M.  Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers.  New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1991.


[back to index of past meetings]