Book Review of “Eliminating the Gobbledygook” by Kathy Walsh

As one with a love for documentation and trying to communicate effectively and concisely, I bought a copy of Eliminating the Gobbledygook – Secrets to Writing Plain Language Procedures by Kathy Walsh.  I am pretty sure I worked alongside Kathy some years back on what was called the Documentation Effectiveness Project at Mayne so I was not expecting too many surprises as we both know our stuff.  The purpose of the book purchase was to refresh and update my knowledge of controlled document writing.  I figured I may as well review the book in the process.

I was unaware that Plain Writing was a movement  – I thought that was just how things were done.  It is certainly how I was trained to write technical documents.

Eliminating the Gobbledygook, Secrets to Writing Plain Language Procedures is structured logically and follows the following pattern for each chapter:

  • introduction
  • contents
  • summation
  • what comes next
  • review questions / points to ponder

This mirrors the way I was taught to train small groups.

There are three main sections to the book:

  • About plain language
  • Writing in plain language
  • Developing a plain language Quality Management System (QMS)

While reading the book, I made notes on how certain aspects could be applied to my blogging as well as my presentations.  It was comforting to note that in my current job as a technical support engineer, I use my writing skills to provide instructions primarily in an imperative style.  It was also nice to see the overall concepts of document writing presented in the book were familiar to me.  I was a little surprised that those with industry knowledge and technical witting skills are rare.  This is a skill-set of mine I will start emphasizing.

Reading Eliminating the Gobbledygook, Secrets to Writing Plain Language Procedures was quite easy, demonstrating Kathy applies her own rules to her writing: A well written document or book is easy and fast to read.  I knocked off part one in under a day of interrupted reading. Part 2 took me about a week of interrupted reading. Part 3 took an afternoon to complete.

Note: As I am familiar with the content, my reading and comprehension time may have been faster than a casual reader.

Controlled and managed documents were differentiated which is an important distinction to make when it comes to your QMS.

Much of the information is “chunked” into tables and bullet points, which reflects an acceptable way of writing a SOP or OI.

Document scoping and assessing impact was discussed.  I cannot explicitly remember doing that when I updated or wrote documents.  It may have been something I just did.  e.g. considering what other processes might be impacted, the training that might need to be developed or delivered and what other documents might need to be updated or references altered in.  In any event, scoping your changes and conducting an impact assessment is great advice.

Helpful tables listing key ideas and showing examples were provided throughout the book.

Chapter 11 directs the reader to consider the audience when using italics.  As a microbiologist,  my recommendation is to always use italics when naming microbes as it is the correct way of doing things.  This chapter also touches on style guides.   Having completed a Visual Communication diploma*, I agree that style guides should be specific to marketing and branding collateral  – the flashy documents.  Your controlled and managed documents should be utilitarian and to the point.

One section I liked and you could find valuable is the one titled Avoid Worthless Changes and Time wasting (pg146/214).  I am a big fan of being efficient and detest the seemingly endless review cycle that can form between the writing and verification stages.

There were a few typos.  That may look bad in a document talking about accurate documentation.  Having written and reviewed 100’s of documents, even after espousing my attention to detail I always find at least one typo.

Eliminating the Gobbledygook, Secrets to Writing Plain Language Procedures, will be a great addition to my reference library.  It could be for you too.

*When I completed my diploma, Visual Communication was called Graphic Design.

Review of Draft Standard: AS 2828.2 Health records, Part 2: Digitized health records

One way I keep myself up to date with developments within laboratories and related areas is by reviewing draft standards.  This keeps me appraised of the current state of affairs, keeps my documentation audit skills fresh and potentially allows me to contribute to the content of standards.  For this draft standard, I have some knowledge of IT and IT security so am able to critically review the draft standard and offer comment.

Notes: refer to the conditions for comment stated towards the beginning of the draft standard.

DR AS 2828.2 Health records, Part 2: Digitized health records Continue reading

Review of Draft Standard: AS 2243.2 Safety In Laboratories – Part 2: Chemical Aspects

One way I keep myself up to date with developments within laboratories and related areas is by reviewing draft standards.  This keeps me appraised of the current state of affairs, keeps my documentation audit skills fresh and potentially allows me to contribute to the content of standards.

Notes: refer to the conditions for comment stated towards the beginning of the draft standard.

Update 20190103: After proceeding to submit comments, I observed page numbers were required.  That is important to note for future reviews.  Page numbers added.

DR AS 2243.1 Safety In Laboratories – Part 2: Chemical Aspects Continue reading

Review of Draft Standard: AS 2243.1 Safety In Laboratories – Planning and Operational Aspects

One way I keep myself up to date with developments within laboratories and related areas is by reviewing draft standards.  This keeps me appraised of the current state of affairs, keeps my documentation audit skills fresh and potentially allows me to contribute to the content of standards.

Here I step through the draft standard making comments.  Where a comment is answered later in the standard, I go back to my original comment and make notes.  An uncommented comment is potentially worthy of becoming an official comment on the standard.

Update 20190103: page nubmers added.

Section 1 Continue reading

IMM3022 Immunocytochemical and Lectin Labelling of Acid Secreting Cells in the Stomach and Kidney

IMM3022 Immunocytochemical and Lectin Labelling of Acid Secreting Cells in the Stomach and Kidney

Paul Yeatman

Partner/s: Rachael Davies, Tanya De Jong, AnnalieseSampey, Adreana Lambrinakos, Anna Rentoulis, Steve Argirio, Spiros Foscolos.

Date: 24th August -> 5th October 1994.


Certain organs in the body contain cells, which are involved in acid secretion. In the stomach such cells are called parietal cells and exist in gastric pits contained in the stomach body. (Diagram.1 and Diagram.2). In the kidney such cells are known as intercalated cells, and line the collecting ducts of the kidney. (Diagram.3 and Diagram.4) In both cases, a two-subunit ATP dependent (ATPase) proton pump controls the acid secretion. Continue reading

Science In Australia

There was an advert for a science communicator / project manager this week.  The twitter post said must love science (*tick*) and have skills (*tick*).  I checked it out.  The role was skewed towards science communication and requires someone with a history of producing media reports, blogging, liaison with the science industry etc.  Enthusiasm alone would not cut it, though it would make the role a challenge, and that’s what I’m here for – challenges.

One requirement was to be able to name at least 10 science organisations in Australia.  Hmm, thought I cannot do that.  That’s embarrassing.  So, here’s what I could name off the top of my head and then here’s what I could find using the great advertising machine known as Google.

Off the top of my head with lots of brain racking

  1. Australian Synchrotron –
  2. CSIRO –
  3. Australian Signals Directorate – (actually intelligence, thought this was science, or science based)
  4. Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) – (I should know more of these)
  5. Florey, aka the Howard Florey Institute –
  6. The Australian International Gravity Observatory – Everyone who visits should do the solar system walk.  Pluto is so far away!  Take water.
  7. The Australian Telescope National Facility – – technically CSIRO.
  8. The Australian Antarctic Division –
  9. The Australian Association for Microbiology –
  • CSL before it went private (so not counting it).
  • Many pharma companies (which I’m not going to count).
  • Museums (Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney) – do these count.  They should count.
  • I could name ScienceInPublic, as they posted the advert.  That would be cheating!
  • All our universities.  Again, cheating if I named them.

Nine’s not bad, though I should know at least 20.

Ones I needed to look up (shame on me)

After four, I felt I was scraping the bottom of the Google barrel.  I soon discovered that while many about pages may list the organisation name in the header meta, the names were missing from the body of the page.  I also found that in lots of articles about science produced by Australia, the organisation producing the science was not named. Not how you build brand recognition.

  1. Australian Science Communicators –
  2. Australian Academy of Science – Tad worried I’d forgotten about them.  I remember them as the premier science outfit and I had an old photo ruler from here.
  3. Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) –
  4. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – – I knew something existed, but could not name it.
  5. Woodside Australian Science Project –
  6. The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) –
  7. The Royal Institution of Australia –
  8. Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science – Perhaps needs to work harder?  Three Google pages down using “australian science” as my search term.
  9. The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) –
  10. Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity –  Most disappointing I did not know this given I’ve an immunology degree!
  11. Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) –

Related to this, I could name lots of science Australia has produced or is working on.  The various inventions reportedly to come out of Australia, (Hills hoist, the ute, the stump jumper), stomach ulcers being caused by Helicobacter pylori, matter transport/Quantum entanglement, eradicating rats by using dogs from an Island off the coast of Warrnambool (awww, Oddball died in February.  I’ve also merged this with Macquarie Island where dogs were used to eat all the rabbits, rats and mice – Oddball was a fox eaterupperer), wi-fi (CSIRO), the joint US-Australian military research project called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) testing hypersonic engines, the people developing organs in a petri dish, various cancer research and I’m sure I could come up with more.

On the topic of Australian science, have a read of Australia’s National Science Statement – 2017.  It states science means “Natural, physical and life sciences, including medical and health sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology‑related disciplines.”

That’s not a proper description.  Science is the methodical and rigorous study of phenomena to understand them and the application of such methods and results to produce things.  The results can be knowledge, TV’s, vaccines, better car tyre rubber, ducks that go woof, less harrowing cancer treatments, key hole surgery, the “discovery” that fat is turned to water and CO2 and expelled in order to lose weight – even if it is obvious, it needs proving.

Making sure I had some idea my above description in bold was more or less correct, I checked our a dictionary and it said “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”  Yup – within acceptable error limits.

PIC/S Guide for Good Manufacturing Practice for Medicinal Products (2013)

From Jan 1, 2017, the PIC/S GMP guide for Medicinal Products V13 will be in effect.  In Australia, the TGA requires version 9 is used, though rumour has it, version 13’s going to be adopted soon.  If such proposals as this one, which is mainly concerned with herbal “medicine” from the Complimentary Healthcare Council are ratified, then all future PIC/s updates will automatically apply to Australian manufacture.  Something to keep an eye on.

Compliance wise adopting PICS/s 13 over 9 is  not too big as deal as the PIC/S guide is based on old ICH Q7A guidelines dating from August 2001 and the right and wrongs do not change much over time unless something major takes place.  What manufacturers will need to pay attention to are the changes between version 9 and 13, namely:

  • Chapter 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 revised – Part 1
  • Annex 2, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14 and 15 revised
  • QRM principles in PIC/S GMP added – Part 2
Screen shot of PIC's news item

Screen shot of PIC’s news item

Link to guide. (possibly dead) – Google search will find it for you.

Based on the contents of V9, things to review:

  • Quality Management
  • Personnel
  • Documentation
  • Quality Control
  • Contract Manufacturing and analysis

You should already be in control of the above areas as otherwise, you’d be having and uncomfortable 3rd party audit experience.  The overall principles do not change, just the fine-print.

Annex 1 deals with the manufacture of sterile medicinal products, so not much impact to us there. If you are performing risk assessments and utilising ISO9001, QRM should already be familiar to you.



Notes Would Benefit Interviews

Like any other situation where you wish to convey accurate and important information, documentation/notes/written examples rule.

Attending a job interview is a very unnatural situation.  Once in a role, you have access to documentation, procedures, reference materials, pre-made presentations etc to get your point across.  In interviews you have your memory, your dress sense and your people skills.  To add confusion to the mix, recent studies are showing memory can be flawed so how am I to know an example I am providing actually happened, or was directly related to me?  Notes!  That is how! Continue reading