Like other rules in life, not all pharma editorial rules are black and white, and some might seem to be downright contradictory. Here are just a few rules that I try to keep in mind when working in pharma communications and marketing.

  • Don’t get too attached. Grammatical mores and editorial rules change – just check the evolution of “e-mail,” “Web site,” and “Internet” in the AMA Manual of Style (now “email,” “website,” and “internet”).
  • It’s important to be flexible.  Although AMA rules change, each brand has its own style (wait — keep “e-mail,” “Web site,” and “Internet”!). When preparing marketing materials for different brands or across franchises, remember to follow the company’s style guides.
  • Know when to stick to your guns. Not everyone embraces the series comma – but unless it’s a hard and fast client style to not use it, push for its use: it really does improve readability.
  • Sometimes ya gotta loosen up. You work your best editorial magic on a concept, but the team wants to use the original text. So you speak your piece and move on…and when the client loves it just as it is, you celebrate with the team. We don’t always have to play by the book.
  • Consistency is a virtue. Back to those hyphens and initial caps: once you decide to go with a particular style, stick with it. Don’t distract your audience with inconsistency.
  • There’s beauty in order. Use conventional footnote symbols in their standard order and ensure there’s a corresponding footnote for every symbol used in your content. Sending your audience on a wild goose chase for a missing double-dagger footnote is a sure way to lead them away from your message.
  • A higher entity controls us all. It’s called the FDA, and no matter how engaging the content is that you’ve sweated over and whipped into shape, their regulations on pharma communications set the boundaries that we all work within. Pay heed to the client regulatory expert’s interpretation of the regs!

If you play in the pharma marketing and communications editing arena, what are your life rules?

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