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Report from AMWA: Medical Writing, Plain Language, and More!

Mary Ann and Kat presenting at AMWA 2014.Recently, 3 of us attended the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) conference in Memphis, TN. In between visits to Graceland and tastes of bourbon, we shared our tips and tricks for creating stellar online health content with an enthusiastic audience of writers, content managers, and clinicians. It was great to hear about the efforts they’re making to help patients and providers — and, well, everyone — access the information they need to be healthy.

We also participated in sessions that ranged from a hands-on lesson in advanced Google techniques for content creation by @rachelmeyer1 to a heartfelt and scientifically grounded lecture on the neurobiology of storytelling by @GeoffKaneMDMPH.

In particular, I’m excited to apply these lessons learned in my ongoing work as a writer and editor:

  • From @healthwise, plain language is the best (obviously!) for communicating health and wellness information. But there are exceptions to every rule. For example, although I love a bulleted list as much as anyone, it may not be the best tool for writing content about tough mental health subjects like depression. A softer touch (using more narrative paragraphs instead of lists) might work better.
  • The language of sex and gender is still in flux, and change is (ever so slowly) progressing. More states than ever are starting to ask questions related to sexual identity on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys. And organizations from clinician offices to federal agencies are adjusting data collection about these potentially sensitive and nuanced personal attributes.
  • From @EnvisionPharma, we were reminded that an editor’s job isn’t to make revisions for the sake of making revisions — the goal is to improve content in collaboration with the original author.

Next year’s AMWA conference will be held in San Antonio, TX. River Walk, Alamo, and plain language, anyone?

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