Different Strokes for Different Folks

As editors, we come across many different types of writing ranging from those of technical sectors to personal memorandums or letters. The most difficult and important aspect of the editing process is revising the writer’s or translator’s work by taking into account the intended readers. The tone and style of language, as well as terminology, may vary more than a little depending on the writer and the target reader.

The following is a sample sentence from a medical file, or more specifically, a clinical trial document with the intended readers being physicians or professionals in the medical field:

“This trial is a case-centered phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter, international study.”

It is obvious that the tone and terminology used are not meant for a reader who is not engaged in the medical field. How can this sentence be revised to allow anyone to understand it more easily? The above sentence would pose no problem if the intended readers are doctors or medical professionals. However, what if this were to be read by patients? This is where an editor tries his or her best to revise the original text. As such, the sample sentence can be revised as follows:

“This clinical study is a patient-centered, three-stage study that is carried out in multiple hospitals in different countries, and it involves comparison of the  study drug with a placebo. Patients who participate in the study will be randomly placed into groups, and neither the physician nor the patient will know whether they are administering the study drug or the placebo.”

As can be seen from the revision, the original single sentence has been expanded into two compound sentences. This type of “expansion” often occurs when such technical or specialized language is revised as layman’s terms. Furthermore, the process can be reversed from normal, everyday language to specialized language, provided that the editor performing the revision has sufficient knowledge of the particular field.

An editor’s job is never easy, and his or her choices in editing a document must always be appropriate from the context of the intended reader—“different strokes for different folks.”