FirstMedCommsJob Workshop: Writing skills for aspiring medical writers

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Event description
This specialist workshop is for anyone applying for an entry level job in MedComms. It is subsidised by the Sponsors of FirstMedCommsJob.

About this Event

This is a FirstMedCommsJob Workshop (split across two half-days), run online using the Zoom platform and led by John Dixon, trainer in scientific writing and presentation skills.

These workshops, which build on the extensive, free, information resources at First`MedCommsJob.com, will enable participants to better prepare for their interviews with the MedComms agencies. And to learn and participate in the same way as face-to-face workshops, without facing the cost of travel and accommodation.

They include short PowerPoint presentations and interaction through exercises, discussion, breakout sessions for small groups and pairs, and opportunities for asking questions and making comments throughout.

Attendees will be sent details directly for the Zoom meeting a few days before the start of the workshop.

All attendees will receive a certificate of completion and have their name recorded here.

Note: Numbers are strictly limited to ensure maximum engagement for the attendees.

Timing and breaks

The sessions start at 09:30 and finish at 13:00 UK time. We will be online from 09:20 to troubleshoot any IT issues. However, even the keenest of participants in the most engaging virtual workshops can only sit in front of a screen for so long! So, rest and refreshment breaks are scheduled during each session, with time at beginning and end for introductions and final questions.

John Dixon MA FRCS MRCGP MBA. John initially qualified in medicine and worked as a surgeon and GP in the UK NHS. Since 2003, John completed an MBA at Warwick University Business School. He then spent five years as Director of Medical Communications in a UK medical communications agency, becoming a freelance consultant in healthcare communications in 2013. He now provides training in scientific writing for medical writers in UK medical communications agencies and for researchers from a diversity of scientific disciplines in universities and research institutes across Europe. John is coauthor of: How to Publish in Biomedicine: 500 Tips for Success. Third Edition. Nov 16, 2016. CRC Press. View John's LinkedIn profile here.

Aim and content

The workshop covers eight topics: be prepared, clear, readable, coherent, concise, relevant, visually aware, correct and consistent. The full programme is below.

Learning objectives

After the workshops, participants should be more confident in the following:

  • Approaching an agency writing test
  • Writing in a clear, concise and readable style that is appropriate and relevant for the intended audience
  • Constructing good sentences and paragraphs and enabling ideas to flow smoothly through text
  • Using familiar words and not overusing adverbs and adjectives
  • Formatting documents effectively by maximising white space and using good subheadings, lists, figures and tables
  • Using appropriate grammar, words and punctuation commonly encountered in scientific writing
  • Proofreading their work using good technique and a checklist.


A week before the workshop, participants will be given a little preparatory work to take around 30–60 minutes.

Programme: Day 1

Be prepared, clear, readable, coherent and concise

09:30: Introductions and using the Zoom interface

Zoom: screen setup and how to participate by chat, non-verbal communication, polls and breakout rooms

Be prepared

The writing test: types, what agencies expect, have a clear brief, keep to the deadline

Preparation: get up to speed, perform a relevant literature review, know your audience and be sure you know what output format is expected


  • Participant experiences of writing tests

Be clear

Be clear and write for your audience: keep it simple, language, audience needs, formality and tone

Sentences: structure, length, unclear sentences, embedded phrases, active and passive voice, avoid noun-adjective strings and wordy phrases, smothered verbs, tenses

Words: use shorter, familiar words, avoid unnecessary/imprecise words, take care with adverbs and adjectives

10:30 BREAK


  • Examples of unclear sentences: what’s wrong and how to improve them
  • Complex sentences: dependent clauses, smothered verbs and the passive voice

Readability: what is readability and why is it important?


  • Compare the readability of extracts from 2 papers
  • Results of analysing a piece of your own writing using MS Word readability statistics

11:30 BREAK

Be coherent

Group ideas, coherence between sections, coherence within paragraphs, transitions, flow and impact, parallelism


  • Compare 2 passages – how can flow and impact be improved?

12:00 BREAK

Be concise

Delete, replace, reduce, change, avoid

Editing strategy to create clearer and more concise text

12:15 BREAK


  • Identify text that can be improved in a lay summary
  • Edit the text to be clearer and more concise

Informal discussion about careers in MedComms – Peter Llewellyn of NetworkPharma

13:00 FINISH

#Pre-workshop preparation:

1. With instructions provided, use MS Word Readability Statistics to analyse some of your own writing for ‘readability’. Results to be discussed during the workshop.

2. Complete a words, grammar and punctuation quiz.

3. Complete a proofreading exercise.

Programme: Day 2

Be relevant, visually aware, correct and consistent

09:30: Welcome back and any IT issues

Be correct and consistent

Proofreading basics: techniques to spot errors, another pair of eyes

Check methodically: from sections/titles to references to spelling/punctuation

Check your work against: agency, client or other style guides

Review any outstanding issues from the quiz, proofreading exercise and mini exercises in concise writing (password-protected answers PDF provided before the workshop)

Issues for optional discussion:

Punctuation in lists; semi-colon vs. colon; compared with or compared to; that or which; who or whom, split infinitives, correct use of hyphens and dashes; possessives; writing numerals; units and spaces; using however; in to or into; while or whilst; in to or into

Interpretation and language: fact vs. opinion, interpretation of results, medical jargon

10.30 BREAK


  • Critique of selection of statements: correct the statement/language used

Be relevant

Consider your audience, their level of expertise, what information they need

Examples considered: ‘Introduction’ to research paper vs. full literature review; which results matter in ‘Results’; the ‘value message’

Abstracts: a test of concise and relevant writing

11.30 BREAK


  • Condense a wordy abstract into more concise text

Be visually aware

Be visually aware: white space, lists, headings and subheadings, spacing, graphics


  • Format a graph and table

12.15 BREAK


  • Critique a congress slide: tips on professional design and layout

Informal discussion about the CV from a recruiter’s viewpoint – Julia Walton of Media Contacts

13:00 FINISH

#Pre-workshop preparation:

1. Complete the mini exercises in concise writing

2. Check your answers to the quiz, proofreading exercise and mini exercises against the Answers PDF provided, and bring along any outstanding queries for discussion.

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Eventbrite's fee is nonrefundable.

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