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The Significance of an In-House Style Guide for Crafting Medico-Legal Reports


One of the first questions I ask a new client is whether or not they have a style guide? If the answer is no, the second question is if they want me to create one.


So why, what's all the fuss about? In my opinion creating and having a style guide is one of the best things you can do for your business, it creates cohesion, consistency, professionalism and helps you expand your business and outsource writing and proofing with ease.


But firstly let me explain what one is.


What is a Style Guide?

A style guide is a document that explains (in great detail) how you want any document created by your business to be written. It covers preferred fonts, colours, spacing, order, word choice and formatting of dates and times to name a few.

For my clients in the realm of medico-legal documentation, precision, clarity, and uniformity are pivotal. Whether it's a medical report for a personal injury case or an expert opinion in a legal proceeding, the accuracy of these documents holds immense importance. Amidst this, the necessity for an in-house style guide becomes apparent – a comprehensive tool that ensures consistency and adherence to professional standards.


Consistency Ensures Professionalism Across the Team


I always say that when your documents leave you they are acting as your best advert. You want your documents to be instantly recognisable and 'imputed with quality' as Steve Jobs would say!. You want someone to be able to recognise a report from your team and know it is from your business no matter who has written it. Taking the time to decide how you would like things to be written means you can outsource writing tasks to your team and offer support to new members of the team when they start. Picture a scenario where various team members contribute to a complex legal case, each drafting their reports with different styles and formats. Such inconsistency can not only confuse stakeholders but also undermines the professionalism of the reports. By adhering to a unified style, medico-legal reports become more cohesive, professional, and ultimately, more credible in the eyes of stakeholders.


Precision in Language and Terminology


In the realm of medicine and law, precision in language is paramount. Ambiguity or imprecision in terminology can lead to misunderstandings, potentially impacting legal proceedings. An in-house style guide ensures the use of standardised medical terminology and referencing, eliminating confusion and promoting clear communication among professionals from different disciplines. Whether it's defining medical conditions, describing injuries, or interpreting test results, a well-defined style guide enables writers to articulate their findings with utmost precision.


Accessibility Built In


Medico-legal reports are often read and interpreted by individuals with varying levels of medical expertise, including judges, legal professionals, medical professionals, insurers, and clients. Therefore, clarity in communication is essential to ensure that all stakeholders can comprehend the content accurately. An in-house style guide emphasises the use of plain language, avoiding jargon and convoluted expressions that may alienate non-medical readers. Additionally, it provides guidelines for organising information logically, facilitating efficient navigation and comprehension of complex medical narratives.


You can instantly level-up the accessibility of your documents with your style guide. Fonts and spacing requirements that suit dyslexic readers, sentence constructions that use the active voice, and layout and formatting preferences that are easier to read are built in to how your documents are written, so the first level of accessibility is catered for as standard.


A Style Guide is a Live Document


An in-house style guide is not a static document but rather a dynamic tool that evolves alongside advancements in medical research and changes in professional standards. Regular updates and revisions ensure that the style guide remains relevant and reflective of current practices, empowering writers to produce reports that meet the evolving needs of the healthcare and legal sectors. Most importantly any changes need to be rolled out at the same time and to all staff. Alerts and examples are incredibly useful when communicating changes (especially around established practices).


If your organisation needs assistance in creating, adapting, or auditing your style guides for medico-legal reports, we at memo are here to help. We have templates to buy or we can provide tailored solutions to ensure that your documentation meets the highest standards of professionalism and accuracy. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can support your writing needs.


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