Friday, August 31, 2007

Medical Writing: Communicating to Different Audiences

I was on a call last night with members of our regional AMWA chapter and an interesting topic came up. How do you convey medical information when you have to write for different audiences (for example, health professionals, lay audience, and researchers)?

This is a common issue for medical writers working in academia or managing large-scale Web sites reaching to these different groups. This is an issue I touch on in my ebook, and that I think can be resolved with finding the right format for each audience and translating the information into that format.

If you have more than one audience, you can either write separate pieces for each audience or find a format suitable to all your audiences.

For instance, when planning the Web site for the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii), we wanted to present the findings of current research on vaccines to both health professionals and parents. (Click here to see an example of what we came up with). Our solution provided background information on the study's topic, a synopsis of the article under self-explanatory headings, and an editorial comment about the strengths and weaknesses of the article.

We thought this kind of format would appeal to busy health professionals with no time to read the whole journal article and, of course, to lay readers, who had the basic content of the article in a non-technical (or semi-technical) language.

As you become more familiar with a topic, it is easy to assume (sometimes unconsciously) that if you know something, your reader must know it also. But not everybody knows what oncogenes or immunodeficiency means--even though for you it is common knowledge. I am not saying you have to define every term, but at least you can find alternative plain-language words for some instances where the technical word is used. It is always useful to have both technical and lay readers review your piece before publication. That will assure your writing is accurate and clear.

Thanks for reading!

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