It can feel like a very strange time to try and make a living as a writer.
Whilst technology and the associated changes to the ways we consume the written word can be seen as making writing more accessible, the value of writing as a discipline may never have been less valued.
Hear me out…
Some might reasonably argue that blogs like the one you are reading can be produced, published and disseminated to a huge audience without the writer having any formal or even informal training. The writer, indeed, may not even be human (I assure you: this writer is).
Academics perpetually bemoan the dumbing down of curricula. Indeed, universities have introduced methods of assessment which rely far less on the traditional skills of reading and essay writing.
What does this mean, I hear you ask, for those considering the challenge (and indeed, art) of effective health writing?
The market is flooded: effective medical writers are needed more than ever
Anyone Can Play Guitar (true for medical writing?)
Whatever the reasons, it seems clear that the market is flooded, the quality is questionable and the reader perhaps ever less discerning. None of which is to suggest that the role of the writer is somehow diminished or less important.
Quite the opposite.
The ability to communicate ideas and information accurately, and with empathy for the reader, has surely never been more important.
We are bombarded with content about every topic under the sun, on a minute-by-minute basis if we are not careful. The trap doors of endless scrolling, clicking and watching serve to increase our perhaps shame-inducing screen time, often with very little to show in terms of our increase in knowledge, or understanding of the world, or indeed, our happiness.
Health content is no different.
Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine
Medical writing is a perfect example of the need to write concisely, informatively and above all accurately in a context which makes a meaningful difference to the life of the reader.
A plethora of information is available on Dr. Google. Many readers struggle to discern the quality of that information, their ability to do so further compromised by personal bias or anxiety. The dangers are considerable:
- charlatans present themselves as legitimate and research-led practitioners, or
- traditionally trusted sources containing incorrect, contradictory or confusing advice.
You can decide which of these is worse.
What does this mean for effective medical writing in the modern information age?
Information on medicine, health and wellbeing needs to be presented with an evidence base and yet not be impenetrable to the general reader.
That means mastering:
- Research and corroboration of claims:
Academic or technical materials are often opaque, with conclusions unclear even to peers working in a similar field. As such, an effective writer must also be an effective reader and researcher, able to corroborate claims and assimilate and simplify complex concepts without eroding their meaning.
- Simple, yet accurate, scientific communication:
Scientific findings and technical and regulatory requirements often contain inherent complexities. There is a significant skill required to present this type of information both accurately but in a manner which keeps the reader engaged.
The potential benefits of effective medical writing
The benefits of effective writing in health and wellbeing in a variety of contexts are significant.
- An accurate and engaging educational resource allows the general public to be either reassured, seek medical advice as appropriate, or engage in preventative measures like regular exercise.
- Media reporting becomes more accurate, impacting awareness on a population level and as a result positively impacting public policy.
- Patients can make informed decisions about personal health choices, such as understanding treatment options or potential side effects.
- Beyond the general public, effective medical writing supports healthcare professionals by providing clear, concise and accurate resources, aiding the swift dissemination of medical knowledge and fostering better interactions amongst professionals and their patients.
The case for effective and highly skilled medical writing in this context is clear.
To fully develop these skills, we need to consider how best to marry the needs of each audience with the scope and complexity of the information we need to communicate.
To learn more about how I do this, or how you can develop these skills yourself, check out: