Newsletter – December 2015

Table of Contents

Board of Directors Meeting Report
Microsoft Word Tips and Tricks Session Summary

Book Club. The next AMWA Book Club meeting is on Mon., Jan. 25, 2016, at 11 a.m. We will meet at The Egg & I (at 2550 University Ave., just west of Hwy. 280 near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border, with ample free parking in 2 adjacent lots) to discuss “White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine” by Carl Elliott. All are welcome, even if you haven’t started or finished the book. If you plan to attend, please send an email to Mary Knatterud (knatt001 at or leave a brief voicemail (651-645-3858). New and/or lapsed AMWA Book Club fans are always welcome.

The first AMWA online learning module is available! The first module is titled “Ten Characteristics of Effective Tables and Graphs” and is worth 1 CE credit.

American Medical Writers Association Board of Directors Meeting

September 30, 2015
Report from the North Central Chapter Delegate, Karen Bannick

The Fall 2015 Board of Directors meeting was held prior to the 2015 AMWA Conference in San Antonio, TX.  As in past years, the room was filled with energy and enthusiasm about the current state of our association and new changes to come. We had great opportunities to discuss AMWA at a national level and later in a smaller group; chapter leaders shared discussion about how their chapters are functioning.

We reviewed the financial reports and learned that we are operating in the red, spending money to reinvest in AMWA, and that our financial investments are not performing as well as expected.

Susan Krug, Executive Director, presented the headquarters report and discussed launch of the Learning Management System and online learning programs.  I was pleased to learn that part of this system will allow for improving online registration for future AMWA conferences.  More information will soon be rolling out to members.

Lori Alexander, AMWA President-elect, updated us on the Strategic Planning Initiative and we approved a plan for the next year’s activities.

Cynthia Kryder, Administrator, discussed launching new member benefits, which include an e-newsletter with curated content and a new online AMWA community.

It was very interesting to hear from Marianne Mallia, Chair of the MWC Commission.  Prior to the meeting, the very first MWC certification exam had been held and there was great feedback that the committee had put together a well-rounded and appropriately rigorous exam.  They are now shifting to work on recertification requirements.

Some administrative details were discussed, including administrator and committee member elections.  We reviewed and approved chapter bylaw change requests, which included an update to our North Central Chapter’s bylaws.  Future conference dates and locations were announced:

  • Oct 5-8 2016 – Denver
  • Nov 1-4, 2017 – Orlando
  • Oct 31 – Nov 3 – Washington, DC
  • 2019 TBD
  • Oct 11-14, 2020 – Baltimore, MD

It was an honor to represent our chapter at this national meeting.

Microsoft Word Tips and Tricks Hands-on Training summary

Nissa Mollema led a Microsoft Word training on Nov 14th at Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., in New Brighton, MN. This training was intended for intermediate users who wanted to get the most out of Word.  The training session was intended to be very interactive—users chimed in with their own advice and words of wisdom. During the session, we also encountered several Word errors that we were able to troubleshoot and solve with the group. Feedback from this session was positive and we would love to hear more about other sessions of interest to our members. Some attendees expressed interest in a MS Project training session—please let us know if this is something you would attend!

MS word customizing

One of the topics covered during the session was how to customize your Word experience.  It takes only a few minutes to customize, but it can save quite a bit of time.  Some of the favorite items to add for quick-click access were add/remove comments, paragraphs (for various break types), and update (to update all fields in a document). View “All commands” to see various commands beyond just the most popular.

We also discussed using styles within your document. Styles are a medical writer’s secret weapon—setting up a document correctly the first time can save hours of time later. Expand the “Styles” section.  Look to see what’s in there (if it is an old file, there may be several different styles in use). If it’s a new document, you will see a list of the standard styles.

  • Customize your styles. Click the down arrow to “modify” styles to your liking
  • Critical styles are Title, Headings, and “Normal”
  • Begin building out a fresh document using headers (remember outlining?) as this can be a wonderful help when you need to add a numbered tier approach later.
  • Use headers to make a “Leveled List” by selecting the Paragraph section, List Library, and the leveled Headings. This will give you a beautiful, numbered section listing that you can use for more complex documents.
  • Add a Table of Contents with a single click

Table of contents AMWA word help

Lastly, we learned how to add captions and cross-reference text within the document.  This is something that is frequently needed in complex regulatory documents.  We encountered some errors—when captions cooperate, the numbering for figures and tables should automatically update when rearranged within the document.  Sometimes Word gets confused when there isn’t any text between the captions—which we experienced during this training!  Be sure to add some normal text between captions, or errors may occur.  However, setting-up captions correctly makes it a single-click task to update all figures and table numbers in the text.

Other helpful tips we mentioned:

  • Use the navigation pane to drag and drop entire sections around the document
  • Use your “Update” button to update all fields in the document
  • Free citation managers that are nice to use are Zotero and Mendeley
  • Use Google to help with complicated errors. Many errors have been fixed through a simple search for something like “Black bars over headers in Word.”