Medical content can be complicated and difficult to understand. That’s a problem if you are putting out blog posts that the average reader can’t understand. They will simply click away and not read your article. And chances are low they will come back.
The goal in medical blogging is to simplify medical concepts so that readers with no medical education know exactly what you mean. This will increase the chance that your writing will be read, but more importantly it will increase the chances that people will benefit from what you write!
Here are a few tips for simplifying complex medical topics for your medical practice blog.
Go back in time. The problem with medical people writing about medical topics is that they often forget how much they know. When you say red blood cells, you immediately have an image of the part of the blood that delivers the oxygen from the air you breathe to the parts of the body that need it. In fact, it might be hard to remember a time when you didn’t know what red blood cells were. But there was a time when you didn’t, and you need to go back there when you write about medical topics.
Don’t worry about insulting your readers. When I read about a legal topic, I need it to be very simple because guess what? I didn’t go to law school. That doesn’t mean I’m not smart, it means I haven’t studied the law. Same with your readers and medicine.
So travel in your mind back to the time when you knew nothing about medicine and write for who you were back then.
Use an analogy. Bliss has mentioned this before and you will probably hear us say it again. That’s because a good analogy can clarify a complex topic faster than just about any other explanation.
I can explain that a blood vessel has several layers and when a layer is weak hydrostatic pressure can cause the weak area to bulge. Over time the weak area becomes weaker because of the blood pressure and can rupture.
Or I can say a blood vessel is a lot like a garden hose. If there is a weak spot along the length of the garden hose, a bulge can form from the high water pressure inside the hose pushing on that weakened spot. The same thing happens with an aneurysm in a blood vessel. Sometimes the spot continues to get weaker because of the constant pressure on it and it finally bursts, spraying water all over you. The same thing happens when an aneurysm ruptures, but the consequences are much worse.
Everyone can relate to a garden hose, so the analogy makes it much easier to transfer the explanation to a blood vessel.
Anthropomorphize (Give your subject human characteristics that it really doesn’t have). We all know that white blood cells don’t have allegiance to any land or government, because they don’t have brains. But referrring to them as soldiers who constantly patrol the body looking for invaders makes it very clear what their job is. Even if they are really directed by biochemical signals and not a beloved general.
No jargon (Like anthropomorphize). Please, don’t use jargon. Even simple terms like “acute” aren’t used the same way in the general language as they are in medicine. Just say sudden. And forget about more complex terms like “analgesia”. Unless you are writing for an audience of Latin speakers (you aren’t!), just say pain relief.
Get help from a friend. As I mentioned in tip one, we often don’t know how much we know. This is where it can be handy to have a non-medical friend read your article and tell you where it’s too complex. If you are in a medical office, there might even be a wonderful person who makes sure everyone gets paid on time and the electricity stays on. But he might not give a hoot about medicine. Ask him to help you out here.
Want some inspiration? This article over at Mental Floss gives some great examples of how scientists explain complex ideas in simple terms. Do you see any ideas you can use in your writing?
Today I want you to come up with a topic that your patients really need to know about. Brainstorm three or four ways you can simplify the topic. Is there an analogy you can use? Can you give the subject human motivations to explain what it does? Is there a lot of jargon associated with the topic that you need to find the best way to simplify?
Once you have settled on a topic and figured out some good ways to make it simple, go ahead and start writing. After you’ve got a good first draft, ask a friend to read it and give you suggestions to simplify it. Then when you do your final edits, you can make changes based on their feedback.
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