Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Medical writing

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7460.s50-a (Published 31 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:s50
  1. Clare Hughes, preregistration house officer
  1. Jersey clarehughes{at}journalist.com

Medical students and doctors are notorious for their poor writing skills and love of jargon. Even if you do not want to be a medical journalist, being able to write well is a useful skill.

Start with the basics—grammar and punctuation. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is on line at www.grammarbook.com and simply explains grammatical principles and how to use punctuation correctly, using examples to illustrate common mistakes. It clarifies the correct use of commonly confused words such as which and that, and who and whom. The effective writing section explains the difference between the active and passive voice and gives tips for making prose more readable. The site includes grammar and punctuation exercises and self test questions.

For help with the practice of writing visit Writer's Resource Center (www.poewar.com). This site contains articles on anything from poetry to Christian writing. Many of the articles in the craft of writing contain useful information, including writing exercises, help with getting ideas, tips on essay writing, and common pitfalls.

The site www.enursescribe.com/freelance.htm is aimed at nursing professionals who want to work in journalism. Writing tips contains a collection of articles aimed at helping to improve literary skills. These include “10 tips for helping you write better,” “Common writing mistakes,” and “Top 10 tips for writing like a pro.” It also has an extensive list of writing links that will take you to writers' websites, agents, medical writing societies, and job listings.

Westminster University's BA (Hons) medical journalism website at www.geocities.com/coursesite/medical.htm contains extensive resources for medical students on the course. ”How to write” is a language and grammar guide and Features/Docos gives guidelines for writing features. Their Media Law website takes you to a comprehensive explanation of various aspects of media law—it is imperative that you grasp the legal concepts of journalism if you want to get your work in print.

Career Focus has its own advice—click the Guidelines to Authors link at www.bmjcareers.com/careerfocus. You will find general advice for authors, including how to achieve the desired style and submit your work. The web page also explains each type of article in Career Focus, giving enough information to enable you to write a well targeted article. Via the Topic Collection logo on the Career Focus home page you can also access an archive about medical journalism.

For those of you seriously considering writing as part of your career visit www.timalbert.co.uk; Tim Albert, a former medical journalist and editor, has recycled himself as a trainer and now runs courses including “Effective writing” and “Writing a journal article.” The site itself has few writing tips; however, you might find some wise advice if you browse the articles from Short Words. Ask Questions also contains some useful hints for improving writing, and the book list provides essential reading for aspiring journalists.

View Abstract