What is a Medical Editor?

Vanessa Harvey
Vanessa Harvey
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A medical editor, also sometimes referred to as a scientific editor, is someone who does the proofreading of a medical document, article, manuscript or any other medical writing that is in print or electronic form. He or she checks for misspelled words and errors in grammar or punctuation and is responsible for ensuring that the author's work can be clearly understood by the targeted readers. The editor ensures that the work is free of bias, slang and inappropriate words. It might also be his or her responsibility to make sure that facts and data are accurate and that scientific units have been properly used. Sometimes an author's work must be formatted to be published in medical journals, and references must be verified, and the medical editor might be responsible for these duties as well.

Textbooks such as those for studying subjects like Biology, Anatomy or Physiology tend to be reviewed by a medical editor, whose name usually appears next to the names of the authors or just below them. Medicine is a science because the study of biology, physiology, chemistry and other sciences is required to practice it on almost every level. Attempting to teach any of these subjects or to inform others about anatomy, medical problems, diseases, conditions or medical treatments can be very difficult, particularly when addressing an audience of readers who are not health care providers. This difficulty in medical writing can cause awkward wording for technical explanations, resulting in a text that does not transmit the message in the way that was intended. A medical editor is able to evaluate the clarity of the author's words and revise the piece as necessary.

Depending on the subject matter, the experience and opinions of the writer, it might be possible for a biased tone to enter the text, which generally is not acceptable if the goal is to publish the work in a well-respected medical journal or peer-reviewed journal. Although the author might not be able to detect when his or her opinion has entered into what might need to remain a purely informational document, the medical editor should be able to catch opinionated phrases or tones that might not be well received by readers. If the work required research to be done, references must be provided and should be verified because of the nature of the subject.

Credibility should be of extreme importance to the author and publisher of scientific writing because it can influence the public. It also can be challenged by healthcare providers, scientists and researchers if all of the information is not presented accurately. This is why the medical editor will even check minor details such as the proper usage of scientific units and the correct spelling of medical terms.

Although a medical editor is not necessarily a healthcare provider, he or she is very well versed in medical terminology and should be able to understand fully the information presented in the author's work. It might seem advantageous for a medical editor also to be a health care provider, at least on the level of the writer of the material that he or she will be reviewing, but this is not always the case. A person's medical knowledge does not necessarily reflect his or her knowledge of the rules of grammar of the language in which the piece is written, an ability to spell correctly or to use punctuation properly.

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