Remember school? Of course you do! You were at the top of your class. You looked forward to finding out your test grades. You may have even developed your own notecard system involving colored highlighters and alphanumeric codes.
We know this because you went into the medical field. School attracts people like us. We are perfectly fine with wading through complex written material to to find valuable nuggets of info.
But we aren’t normal. Most people will only do that sort of thing under duress. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they don’t want to. So they don’t. They know most information is available somewhere in an easy to digest format. They don’t have to slog through complicated text. We have to take that into account if we want them to read anything we write.
In short, you have to simplify your writing if you want anyone to read it. Here are three things you can do to your writing to increase the chances it will be read.
Simplify Your Sentences. Sentences with multiple clauses and phrases require quite a bit of concentration to read. It’s not hard to simplify them, but it takes a bit of effort to make it sound good when you do. You can’t just chop your sentence in half and add a punctuation mark. Instead, think about how to make your short, simple sentences flow one to another.
Pass Up the Passive. Passive sentences fill the pages of medical journals. “The results were tabulated…” “Subjects were randomized…” “Placebo was administered…” Who is doing the tabulating, randomizing and administering in these sentences? It’s a mystery – a dull mystery. Show more action in your verb choice to increase attention to your writing.
Drop the Difficulty. If you are using complicated vocabulary and medical jargon in your writing, cut it out! It may or may not make you look smart, but either way it’s kind of annoying. Those words have their place in academic writing, but not in writing for patients and healthcare consumers.
Sometimes we are so accustomed to writing in a complicated manner, we don’t even know we’re doing it. So I’ve got a great little tool for you to use to help you identify the problems highlighted above. The Hemingway App was named for Ernest Hemingway – the master of communicating deep meaning with simple words and sentence. Now, you don’t have to write another The Old Man and the Sea, and that’s not what the app is for. But it will help you identify complex sentences, passive constructions, and overdone vocabulary. Plug in your next blog post or newsletter item and see what it tells you.
Photo Credit: sebra via Adobe Stock