Sep 13, 2007

Writing skills

Things have been pretty busy for me, but no real notable projects, I eventually want to get around to a medical device labeling post (oooo exciting), but for now I'm thinking about writing skills. Since the medical device industry is regulated, we do a lot more writing than the many other industries. Every procedure must be documented, every form must be properly filled out, etc. The FDA has the right to read whatever documentation you have around and an ambiguous detail can be trouble, not to mention flat out errors. One of my boss's numerous companies had to recall a product years ago because the procedure set a mold temperature to the degree, when in reality it is going to vary a few degrees. There was only one operator who worked that mold and the FDA asked him what temperature he ran at, he told them the range and that was that.

As an engineer I probably spend about half my time writing, although I take on writing assignments more than I probably have to because that is where the real power is. Sort of kidding there, the reports and procedures are important enough that I feel the need to be nit picky and make sure its written like I like. Its harder to request a few spaces here or a rewording there if someone else is doing it, especially the higher up you go in the company.

As I've said before, I work for small company and know everyone pretty well, and we're split about half and half between good writers and bad writers. The bad writers aren't necessarily bad writers per se, just lack attention to detail or computer word processing skills. Not that I'm a great writer, but I'm a formatting ace and I think I can hold my own on the writing- perhaps everyone else does as well and thats the problem. When signing off on things, I'll let some formatting problems slide, but if I find something else that needs fixing, its game on, I'll mark up everything I don't like because it has to be redone anyway. Some suggest resources for coworkers to get help, I just fix things that bother me. Not that I think my company is much worse than anyone else, I have seen contracts and patents that I'm certain dozens of people signed off on and still basic errors get through.

If you're a start up company I think you'll want at least one good writer in every department, QA, manufacturing, and engineering. If you don't have that, you're going to create more work for someone, or its going to slide on through and maybe get you in trouble later.

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