Medical Writing Plain Language and Readability Lingua Franca and Beyond

Volume 24, Issue 1 - Plain Language and Readability

Lingua Franca and Beyond


Writing is something that I have always loved. Actually, as a teenager I would have studied literature, but I changed my mind at the last year at school. I became a paediatrician instead for a few years but then little by little, my career turned towards writing, precisely medical writing. However, I am not a native English speaker – I am Polish. My mother tongue does not even belong to the Germanic languages, and my language roots are completely different. This difference and my overall background made me think that I would never be able to write medical papers in English. Then life started to create a different scenario: I discovered EMWA, a bunch of open and friendly people. Laura Collada, who is EMWA's Public Relations Officer, convinced me to start as administrator of the EMWA discussion group on LinkedIn, and Phillip Leventhal, the Editor-in-Chief of Medical Writing, encouraged me to become editor of a new section for medical writers like me, who either write in English as a second language or who write in languages other than English.

Download the full article


  1. Benfield JR, Howard KM. The language of science. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2000;18(6):642–648.
  2. Vasconcelos SMR, Sorenson MM, Leta J. Scientist-friendly policies for non-native English-speaking authors: timely and welcome. Braz J Med Biol Res 2007;40(6):743–747.
  3. Fergusson G. The global spread of English, scientific communication and ESP: questions of equity, access and domain loss. Iberica 2007;13:7–38.
  4. Langdon-Neuner E, Berghammer G. The Write Stuff: the importance of language for medical writers. Panacea 2010;XI(32):132–136.
  5. Benfield JR, Feak CB. How authors can cope with the burden of English as an international language. Chest 2006;129:1728–1730.
  6. Budgell B. Centre for Biomedical and Health Linguistics: helping non-native English speakers get a grip on the lingua franca of science. Write Stuff 2010;19(4):297–299.
  7. Coates R, Sturgeon B, Bohannan J, Pasini E. Language and publication in cardiovascular research articles. Cardiovasc Res 2002;53(2):279–285.
  8. Pagel WJ, Kendall FE, Gibbs HR. Self-identified publishing needs of non-native English-speaking faculty and fellows at an academic medical institution. Science Editor 2002;25(4):111–114.
  9. Meneghini R, Packer AL. Is there science beyond English? EMBO 2007;8(2):112–116.
  10. Bower JR. Four principles to help non-native speakers of English write clearly. 2011;20(1):89–91.
  11. Heseltine E. Teaching scientific writing to non-native English speakers. Med Writing 2013;22(1):13–16.
  12. Neilson F. Teaching scientific writing using the learner-centred approach. Med Writing 2013;22(1):23–25.
  13. Kourilova-Urbanczik M. Some linguistic and pragmatic considerations affecting science reporting in English by non-native speakers of the language. Interdiscip Toxicol 2012;5(2):105–115.
  14. Kaplan R. Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Lang Learn 1966;16(1):1–20.
  15. Gooden P. The story of English. How the English language conquered the world. London: Quercus; 2009.
  16. Cooke R, Birch-Becaas S. Scientific writing assistance for non-native speakers of English: shifting right on the interactivity spectrum. Rivista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 2009;59:89–100.
  17. Li Y. Text-based plagiarism in scientific publishing: issues, developments and education. Sci Eng Ethics 2013;19:1241–1254.
  18. Cameron C. Publication ethics and the emerging scientific workforce: understanding ‘plagiarism’ in a global context. Acad Med 2012;87(1):51–54.
  19. Academic Writing in English. Lund University [cited 24 July 2014]. Available from:
  20. Wheeler G. Plagiarism in the Japanese universities: truly a cultural matter? J Second Lang Writing 2009;18(1):17–29.



Plain language and readability
President's Message
Time to make it shorter: Plain English in our context
How CDC is promoting a clear communication culture
Making leaflets clearer for patients
Online plain English and readability resources
Get real: Avoiding corporate gobbledygook
Transferring regulation into practice: The challenges of the new layperson summary of clinical trial results
Profile: An interview with Art Gertel on the Budapest Working Group
News from the EMA
The Webscout
In the Bookstores
English Grammar and Style Revising medical writing Reasons not rules: Backtracking, pronoun-induced Part 2 – Single syntactic unit revision
Regulatory Writing Briefing documents: A case apart
Medical Communications
Lingua Franca and Beyond
Out on Our Own


The Write Stuff Archive Contact Instructions for Authors Article Template (Word) Journal Policies

Editoral Board


Raquel Billiones


Evguenia Alechine

Jonathan Pitt

Managing Editor

Victoria White

Associate Editors

Anuradha Alahari

Jennifer Bell

Nicole Bezuidenhout

Claire Chang

Barbara Grossman

Sarah Milner

John Plant

Sampoorna Rappaz

Amy Whereat

Section Editors

Daniela Kamir


Jennifer Bell


Nicole Bezuidenhout 

Digital Communication

Somsuvro Basu

EMWA News 

Ana Sofia Correia 

Gained in Translation

Ivana Turek

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Wendy Kingdom / Amy Whereat

Good Writing Practice

Alison McIntosh 

In the Bookstores

Maria Kołtowska-Häggström

Lingua Franca and Beyond

Maddy Dyer


Lisa Chamberlain-James

Medical Communications/Writing for Patients

Payal Bhatia

Medical Devices

Evguenia Alechine

My First Medical Writing

Anuradha Alahari

News from the EMA

Adriana Rocha


Tiziana von Bruchhausen


Clare ChangZuo Yen Lee 

Regulatory Matters

Sam Hamilton

Regulatory Public Disclosure

Claire Gudex

Teaching Medical Writing

Louisa Ludwig-Begall / Sarah Kabani

The Crofter: Sustainable Communications

Louisa Marcombes

Veterinary Writing

Editors Emeritus

Elise Langdon-Neuner

Phil Leventhal

Layout Designer

Chris Monk