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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-04

0609-PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE WRITING

Background reading material for Year 2 Semester 1 medical student PPSD session of 13th September 2006 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.

CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD WRITING

Positive Image Projection: Written communication projects image about the writer. Written communication leaves a permanent record and therefore must be done well. Clear writing reflects clear thinking.

 

Precise and brief writing: The aim of official writing is to express and not impress. Writing must be brief, precise, direct, forceful, accurate, and result-oriented. Long convoluted sentences should be abandoned; instead short powerful sentences should be used.

 

Simple language: Remember that some of your readers may not be subject specialists like you therefore do not use too much technical jargon

 

Logic in writing: Logic whether inductive or deductive is used in producing precise effective writing. Writing is helped by thinking logically of blocks of ideas and then translating them into a document.

 

Believable: The following are characteristics of believable written communication: the writer owns his positions ie expresses his opinions and stands clearly and does not hide behind vague words and expressions, the writing must be emotionally honest, evidence-oriented, and directed at solving problems.

 

Purposive writing: Written communication must be purposive. Avoid no-results writing. Write to inform but not to impress. Each letter must be written with a specific purpose in mind. Letters are written for one of the following purposes: persuade, complain, reject, good will, ask for something, report, or propose.

 

Review: There are two processes in writing: creating & revising. Several revisions may be necessary before reaching a perfect result. All writing must be proof-read. Proofing involves checking for: spelling, punctuation, grammar, style, and syntax errors in addition to cross-checking data.

 

WRITING LETTERS

Types of letters: letters can serve any of the following purposes: persuasion, complaining, rejection of a request, expressing good will, application, reporting, and making a proposal.

 

Organization & structure: The letter must be organized to show the date, name, address, and subject. The subject must be written upfront. A personal or spiritual salutation is necessary. The body should contain the message being communicated. The letter should have a polite and friendly conclusion. A letter should generally be no longer than 2 pages. Details can be attached as addenda instead of being put in the body of the letter. A check-list or readability, correctness of language and format, appropriateness, and thoughts should be used to check the letter before it is sent off. A letter must have a smooth flow of ideas. Reading good model letters helps you develop your style.

 

OFFICE WRITING

Writing good memos requires answering the following questions. Is the memo necessary? What are the communication needs of the recipient: approval or information? What do I want to say? In writing a memo, be personal. Politely mention what actions & responses you expect and when. Arrange ideas logically. Be consistent in organizing the memo. Keep the opening paragraph short. Vary lengths of subsequent paragraphs. Do not communicate negative matters in writing. End with good will

 

TECHNICAL WRITING: PAPERS, REPORTS AND MANUALS:

Writing papers: Quote or paraphrase source material if it is clearly not your thoughts and document carefully. Write a draft first. Divide the paper into introduction, body, and conclusion.

 

Writing reports and manuals: Reports and manuals are more difficult to write than ordinary letters. Errors in them have worse consequences because many people and operations depend on them. They require strict documentation: sources, lists, tables, figures, etc. Technical reports should be reader-friendly and avoid jargon that non-specialist readers do not understand. Their format should be designed with the end-user in mind. They must be organized in a logical order. They must have an executive summary with emphasis on important points.

 

Medical writing: medical writing is a form of technical writing that follows the principles mentioned above. Its special features are: use of medical jargon, use of abbreviations because doctors write under pressure of time, and making full and clear records in the knowledge that medical records may be subpoenaed by courts of law.

 

PROBLEMS IN WRITING

Blank page/writer’s block: This is caused by lack of motivation, lack of perseverance, fearing the reader, lack of information, and fear of errors. Writer's block is common and should be dealt with forcefully. It is advisable to develop formats and formulas for writing usually undertaken.

 

Writing to difficult persons: When writing to difficult persons or about difficult subjects, you must aim at conveying the message without making the situation worse or creating new problems. Try to personalize the communication. Be positive. Avoid use of the first person because it sounds dictatorial. Do not explain negative news because that could lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations; just deliver the news and no more. Conclude with specific directions on what to do next.

 

Avoiding plagiarism: While making research for any piece of writing, ideas and information not from the writer must be carefully and fully referenced. If an idea is recorded without the full citation of the source it is possible to forget to attribute it properly to the source in the final document. Not every idea and every bit of information needs to be referenced. Specialized guidelines should be consulted on this to avoid plagiarism.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. September 2006