Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Language editing – example

What they sent me... (1 sentence of some 44 words)

The theme for this program was developed in recognition that the upcoming 2008 U.S. national election is a very timely topic and to highlight the challenge faced by many PCPs confronted with choosing among multiple therapies to treat their patients with type 2 diabetes.

What I returned to them... (essentially 3 sentences, 2 joined by semicolon, 52 words, clarity)

The theme for this program was developed in recognition of the prominent media coverage of the 2008 US national election; Decision 2008 will draw from that prominence but refocus the discussion. Many PCPs must make an important decision about which therapy represents the best choice for their patients with type 2 diabetes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Commas with thousands or not?

A writer recently asked if commas were used to indicate place values at thousands and beyond. Answer? No. What about with dollar amounts? No.

AMA follows SI convention (Système International d’Unités) and prefers a space (technically a thin space) for place values beyond thousands. Yes, even with money.
  • 1000
  • 10 000 (or $10 000, for example)
  • 100 000 (or $100 000, for example)
  • 1 000 000

Frustrated at work? Here's 5 steps to make things much worse

Client pushing you around or pushing the envelope on scope of work? Moving those deadlines from next Friday to this Tuesday and expecting you and your team to just make do? Maybe your supervisor is too busy or too disorganized to manage you effectively, properly reward you, or motivate you.

Whatever your unique situation, here's 5 easy steps that take occupational frustration to the next level, ruin your professional reputation and make things much worse.

  1. Let nothing shake your confidence that you are, in fact, being persecuted. After all, everybody else in a pharmaceutical communications agency spends most of the day nursing a toothpick and surfing the Web. You—and you alone—work like a dog.

  2. Don't just assume that client service people in your agency don't know how to manage clients: tell them so. They'll know you have their best interests in mind, and they'll thank you someday.

  3. Call friends and family from a company phone, preferably the one in the break room, and complain loudly. They want to hear about all the unreasonable demands made of you by clueless clients and unfair project managers, and you'll feel a lot better getting all that off your chest.

  4. Come in late and leave early. Nothing says "I'm committed to making things better around here" than abandoning your post. You'll show 'em.

  5. Dramatic sighs: practice in front of a mirror and don't forget to use your diaphragm. Cubicle acoustics are especially kind to dramatic sighs: your team mates will hear you and wonder why you weren't put in charge.

Friday, March 14, 2008

So many phases

Pharmaceutical products are tested in clinical trials, organized as phases, and I never tire of seeing all the different forms used to refer to those phases in running text, tables, figures, and line art. It's often a calculus of variation, even in a single project, especially if the text runs over 100 pages.

How many different ways could phase 1 be written in running text, tables, figures, and line art? Here's a menu of what I've seen in 6 years:

Phase 1, phase 1, Ph-1, Ph1, P 1, P1, Phase I, phase I, Ph I, PhI, P I, PI

That last one is really nasty because PI is a common abbreviation in pharmaceuticals for something entirely unrelated to clinical trial phases. It shouldn't be used, ever, to mean phase 1 but it is. Occasionally. The writer can't help it, sometimes, deadlines being drop dead and all.

Inevitably, any of those 12 possibilities listed above get tangled up in a typo or two (or 10)—especially if the text runs over 100 pages. The writer means to type phase 1, for example, but types phase1 instead. Considering that there's 4 phases, we're talking about nearly 50 possible representations (without typos).

AMA has a very simple rule: lower-case phase + Arabic numeral in running text, and any reasonable abbreviation will do for tables and figures as long as its applied consistently.