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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fake It Till You Make It

I met a medical writing manager in pharma recently. An interesting specimen. Occasionally something she says would make me wonder whether she knows what the hell she's doing. One particular incongruous observation is rather subtle: She seems to pay little attention to details such as grammar or spelling when she writes e-mails, and some of her decisions suggest a lack of forethought. I wonder whether a person can pass for a medical writer for over a decade in the industry without having these qualities dissolved in your blood. I suppose it is not impossible.

I'm not saying I write perfectly with nary a mistake, either. In fact I often make mistakes if I don't go back and re-read my e-mails and postings. My errors are most often related to jumping thoughts --- as in missing words or even phrases --- and stupid errors like "garbage words" left in a sentence, incomplete train of thoughts, and inconsistent verbs and nouns near each other, because I mentally go back and forth to edit myself while writing. I have the terrible habit of nonlinear thinking and editing myself while typing. My mind literally hops around all the time. Perhaps my nature is closer to an editor than a writer, and when both instincts mix I end up with a mess.

However, in this particular person's case, her errors and omissions are typical of people who are not writers. Writers' errors look different in some ways from nonwriters' errors, although I can't quite put my finger on it. Her spelling errors are clearly from someone who can't be bothered to google a word, yet a professional editor or writer cannot bear to type a word that looks "off" without looking it up. The grammar is sloppy, more like the way people talk.

So I looked her up on LinkedIn. Her job history lists several titles as a manager or director of medical writing in some company. Most interesting is a period of nearly 10 years at an organization with a name that's suspiciously generic. I googled it and found nothing. Of course that does not prove this organization does not exist. Still, the smell of rotten fish hangs in the air. 

What if she has faked her resume? Her current employer appears to be a company in chaos. I suspect it is not hard to fake your way into such a place. She also appears to have taken some steps to protect herself by hiring remote contractors who are unable to observe her closely or share their thoughts with others in the company. I wonder how long she will last without exposing herself. Faking a medical writer is not as difficult as faking a surgeon, I presume. On the other hand, the more specialized the role you're faking, the fewer people can spot you.

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