Do you find it increasingly difficult to write about medicine, even if medical writing is what you do for a living?
Maybe you find that you lose your medical writer mojo when an urgent deadline is pressing.
Or perhaps when writing about a disease or health topic that’s unfamiliar you lose confidence in your abilities?
Hey, you’re not alone. Medical and scientific writing is not like other more general forms of writing.
In a nutshell, medical writing requires specific knowledge of how to communicate complex issues to the intended audience coherently and concisely.
And, a lot of us get it wrong – no matter how experienced we are!
Many academic papers and journal articles are hard to read. According to the authors of an essay published in American Scientist, people often assume that the difficulties in reading academic literature are born out of necessity. Out of the extreme complexity of scientific concepts, data and analysis.
However, the authors argue, improving the quality of your writing improves the quality of thought – which, in turn, results in reader clarity.
15 tips to help you write better medical content
These tips are a collection of ideas I have found traversing the web over the years, as well as a few of my own gems. They help me write about medicine with more confidence and clarity – hopefully, they’ll help you, too.
1. Study the art of writing
Learn about grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. To write about medicine, you need to know about both writing and science.
2. Examine your previous published work
Look for clues in past client or employer feedback. What was changed from your original version, and why? Identify where your weaknesses lie.
3. Compare your health writing to other people’s writing
Spot the similarities and differences. Look at the work of industry-standard medical writers, and try to do what they do.
4. Get to know your unique voice
Find your unique writing style. Write in a way that feels open and natural to you – don’t try too hard to be a writer you aren’t.
5. Find the experts in your field
Look to expert medical writers in your area, as well as physician medical writers, and study their work and business practices. Look for clues as to what makes them successful, and draw inspiration from that.
6. Believe in your ability
Be a strong, confident writer. Develop a writer mindset.
7. Ask your colleagues and friends for feedback
Don’t be shy or precious about your work – feedback will help you become a better writer.
8. Consider how you can be original
When you’re writing about medicine, don’t rehash what’s already been said. Consider how you can add a unique perspective or angle.
9. Always write with your intended audience in mind
To write about medicine, you need to know who your audience is (consumer or professional?) and what they want.
10. Get your facts right
To write about medicine and produce convincing arguments, you need to produce work that is factually correct. Always take time to do your requirements gathering and check your facts.
11. Remain focused
Know the objective of your projects before you start writing. Work off a template – it’s important that you know where you’re going to avoid writer’s block.
12. Know your overall position before you start writing
Don’t make up your perspective during the writing process. Have a goal, perspective or opinion and stick to it.
13. Don’t over-complicate
Long sentences and complex terminology do not go hand in hand, and even academic writers enjoy reading work that is easy to read.
14. Represent research adequately
And show an understanding of the body of evidence and clinical trial data.
15. Write the end first and the beginning last
If you’re struggling to get started, starting with the conclusion can help you to get started.
A final thought to help you write about medicine with confidence
Sometimes it’s hard to stop and analyse the quality of your writing when you’re under pressure to churn out content for clients and employers.
But it’s important to take care of every sentence, and every word, to produce excellent medical content.
Do you have any tips to help others write about medicine with confidence?