Whether you are intending to write a press article, prepare a brochure for patients, design the content of a medical website or write a peer-reviewed scientific article, a few writing rules are essential. I have selected five of them.
1- Choose reliable sources of information
Today, we are overwhelmed by information from web, social networks and media. A pivotal element in medical writing and scientific advice is to produce a content from reliable sources. To help you in identifying them, here are some examples:
- Issues from french, european or international scientific societies (European Society of Cardiology-ESC, American Psychiatric Association – APA …)
- Documents from public agencies (Food and Drug Administration – FDA, World Health Organization-WHO …)
- Papers from scientific and medical peer reviews (The Lancet, Nature, Annals of Endocrinology …)
- Books signed by recognized leaders in their field
2- Use a simple but rich vocabulary
Whatever the target for which one you write, the goal is to be read and understood. Some tips to achieve this:
- Use short and clear sentences
- Avoid duplication (don’t repeat several times the same verb or the same adjective in a paragraph…)
- Prohibit the use of verbs that increase poor style (eg do, have, put…)
3- Highlight the text
In a world where information abounds, bringing your target to read your content is one of your priorities. Whether you write a paper or even the content of a website, sublimate the text is essential.
a. Choose a catchy title
Do not try to find a title before writing the content at any cost. It comes often to us when we have writen the content. 1) Write down all the ideas that come to your mind, 2), centralize them step by step according to the objective of your content (eg : depending on the angle you have chosen), depending on the reader that you target and finally according to the style you want to give to your paper (serious, dynamic, with puns …).
b. Illustrate your talk
For this purpose, add a picture, a graph, a table, according to the content you deliver and your sources. Note: If you use an illustration that is not yours, it may be protected by a copyright. It is therefore essential to perform those duties before use. For example, if the picture you choose comes from an images bank (eg Getty, Shutterstock,istock …), make sure of the license associated with it.
4- Reference the content
In the same way you choose reliable information sources, the reader should be sure of that. Therefore, regardless of the type of content delivered, it is necessary to reference it, that is to say, to indicate from which sources the information is derived. If you write an article from a physician’s interview, the reader should be able to identify it quickly: specify the expert’s name to the beginning or the end of the article. If there is a section in which information comes from a medical conference (oral presentation or poster), it should be indicated in the paper. If the work relates to medical writing a brochure for physicians or an article to be submited to a scientific peer review, references should be clearly identifiable both in the text (as a superscript number) and at the end the document. One exception : if patients are your target, it can happen not to include the bibliography in the document you write for them (the aim for them is to deliver a simple, clear information. Adding references could turn the document too complex).
5- Proofread, proofread, proofread !
There is nothing more damaging than finding spelling errors in a document, regardless of the quality of the content. These shells tell a lot about the editor’s rigor. Reading the text is fundamental not only to revise the spelling. This last step is also essential to check its consistency, the relevance of titles and hooks, in brief, the fluency and the good message’s understanding. The medical writer should always take time for this last step!