The updated Good Publication Practice guideline (GPP3) acknowledges the legitimate role of medical writers in helping authors with compliant, complete, and timely development of publications, “particularly when authors have limited time or lack knowledge of publication ethics and current publication and reporting guidelines.”1 Indeed, most authors (>84%) recently surveyed value the assistance provided by professional medical writers, particularly in editing manuscripts and ensuring conformity with reporting guidelines.2,3 In addition, emerging evidence suggests that the use of professional medical writers may enhance publication quality.1 So what impact does the medical writer really have on the quality of the publication? That is the question asked by William Gattrell and colleagues in their paper recently published in BMJ Open.4
Their cross-sectional study examined the relationship between medical writing support and the quality and timeliness of randomized controlled trial (RCT) reports. Completeness of the manuscript was assessed based on a predefined subset of 12 typically underreported items from the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) checklist. Time from manuscript submission to editorial acceptance was also measured, as was the overall quality of written English as assessed by peer reviewers.