Lay review is an essential step in the plain language summary (PLS) writing process. The reason being that it is extremely important that the PLS, or lay summary, is written in a patient-friendly, easy-to-understand style. Lay reviews also provide the medical writer with invaluable information to ensure that the document meets these standards.
Generally, lay reviewers are those with a non-science background. However, it is vital that lay reviewers are trained to know what to look for. When getting started, lay reviewers should ask themselves these questions while reviewing a plain language summary:
- Is the following addressed: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?
- Is the text ordered logically and not redundant?
- Is the main purpose of the study obvious at first reading?
- Are short sentences used?
- Is the text appropriately broken up in paragraphs or bullet points?
- Are everyday English words used instead of complex language?
- Are complicated medical terms defined at first use?
- Are simple verbs used, such as “buy” instead of “purchase”?
- Are the timing of events clearly defined?
- Is the text is non-promotional, including no suggestion of efficacy, safety, or intended use, or no persuasive wording to emphasize safety or efficacy?
- Are graphics easy to read and understand?
- Are graphics consistent with the message in the text?
- Can all graphics be understood on their own, without having to read the text?
Key Issue: Avoiding Promotional Language
It is vital that lay summaries remain as neutral, non-promotional documents. The lay reviewer should check that any language used in the PLS is not promotional; this is an essential aspect of the lay review process.
Recognizing promotional vs. non-promotional language may be difficult at first. Here are a few examples: