Most students entering the field of medicine hold misconceptions about writing in medicine. Writing in medicine uf is an art and a craft, honed by practice over time. In this blog post, I will address some of the more common misconceptions about writing in medicine. First off, medical writing is not just an afterthought associated with the preparation of journal submissions and grants. Rather, medical writers are central to all stages of scientific research from conception to publication.  

Additionally many people misunderstand that technical knowledge is central to being a successful academic writer; it is not uncommon that prominent academics hold the misconception that their unassailable knowledge in their field leaves them largely ignorant on how to put it into words for others — whether for publication or even just in teaching. There are ten common misconceptions that seem to come up frequently, and this post will address these issues head on. Keep reading for a more detailed look into each of these misperceptions.

Ten Common Misconceptions About Writing In Medicine :

1. “Good writing comes naturally to me. I don’t need to learn how to write.”

Most people think they enjoy writing, and some are so convinced that it comes naturally to them that they don’t bother learning how to write (I have seen a number of medical students make this claim). In fact, the best writers I know in medicine learned how to write through practice, and improved over years by editing their own work and that of others. 

After spending years perfecting your craft, you will find composition much easier. An analogy for this process is composing music: as a musician you first learn basic scales and chords by rote; after spending years playing these scales and chords over time you will eventually find composing music much easier. 

2. “I can just write as much as I want.”

In fact, most journals have rules regarding length. For example, clinical trial reports are generally limited to 7 pages; letters are typically between 5 and 10 pages; and general articles are generally limited to 20 pages. While some journals have no limits on length, most journals have some sort of limit on page count in the guidelines for submissions. 

While this does not affect editorial decisions per se, these guidelines serve an important function for authors. By adhering to page limits, authors can be more confident in the quality of their work by knowing how much they can produce.

3. “It’s easier to learn how to write if I have a mentor.”

This is especially true for junior faculty. Having a mentor can be helpful — particularly if you trust your advisor enough to share draft manuscripts with them for feedback before submitting them for publication. However, even if you don’t have an advisor, it does not hurt to find someone who will critique your work and give you good feedback. 

4. “If I write what I know, it’s automatically good.”

While everything that you know might be true or accurate, it is equally important to understand what is the tone appropriate for a given audience. A good example of this dynamic is how medicine was described in the early days of publishing. The first physicians were printers who used medical terminology and nit and belching slang to describe their technical observations (ie: it was called ‘writings in English’). 

Around the 19th century, the vocabulary in popular medical books became increasingly sophisticated (ie: it became called ‘writings in Latin’). This was due to the growing demand among physicians to communicate complex scientific and technical manuscripts (ie: it was called ‘writings in German’.) Today, scientific documents are written for a general audience, but must still be technically accurate.

5. “I can’t find time to write.”

There is always time to write, you just have to consciously choose where and when you will do so. There are many benefits to writing: it can improve your communication skills, it can help you think through and organize your thoughts, and it can help you communicate with others. If you choose to write for yourself (such as making a journal article), bear in mind that you will be required to edit the article at some point. This means that your original piece is essentially a stand-in for the final publication.

6. “Medical writing is nothing like writing a novel.”

Writing is writing, no matter what the subject matter or purpose of the piece. While there are specific rules and formatting guidelines for manuscripts, the basic principles of good writing apply to any type of medical manuscript: good storytelling, careful wording, logic (in terms of argumentation and layout), conciseness, etc. However, in some fields — such as medical education or health policy — scientific evidence has been shown to be more effective than storytelling. 

7. “I can’t find good sources of information for writing.”

Of course there are many sources of information that you can use, but you must be aware that medical writing has its own terminology, rules and formatting conventions. Most importantly, there are also certain standards with which all medical articles should comply. A good place to start is by reading the journal itself; it will provide you with the most common and sought-after resources in your field. Another resource relates to what some writers refer to as “references needed.”


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