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How to write an article that people want to read

Have you got a great idea that you would like to share with others, but you’re not sure how to write it down? You’re not alone. Writing is a skill, and like any other skill it needs to be practiced.

Rx magazine publishes articles from UKCPA members that we know will be interesting and valuable to the pharmacy workforce, and we would like to help get your message to the Rx audience. Read our top tips below and have a go. We’d love to hear from you.

Sum it up

Think about the focus of your article. Try to sum up the essence of what you want to say in a sentence. This will help you write an article with a clear direction and destination.

Your succinct summary will also determine the title of your article, which should be concise and specific. For example:

Pharmacy study on self-administration of medicines
is intriguing, but could be better written as
The impact of self-administration of medicines on nurses’ workload

Great advice for pharmacists who want to improve their networking skills
is too broad and a bit long, but could be tweaked to read
5 ways to improve your networking skills

Keep coming back to the title to make sure that the article is getting to the point and is delivering what it promises to. Although Rx magazine has experienced editors who can help perfect the title of your article, thinking about the title upfront will help you to focus on the content.

Start strong

People have short attention spans online, so your first paragraph should be attention grabbing. What is the ‘hook’? What will keep people reading to learn about what you have to say? Keep it short and sweet, to the point, and hint at what will be explained in the article. 

For clinical articles, try something like:

Patients’ self-administration of medicines reduces nurses’ workload and NHS costs. A study conducted at ABC NHS Trust aimed to empower patients to self-administer their medication and investigated how this changed patients’ understanding of their medicines and the impact it had on nursing workload and medicines errors.

For an article which may be more focussed on opinion or sparking debate, the opening paragraph may be more like this:

Have you ever wondered why pharmacists drink so much coffee? Perhaps it’s an addiction afflicting large swathes of the profession? Perhaps it’s our in-depth understanding of the pharmacokinetic properties of caffeine? Or perhaps it’s due to something more troubling, like workload pressures, stress and cognitive overload. I asked my colleagues, and this is what they told me.

For an article which focusses on signposting to resources, you could start by saying something like this:

We are constantly being advised to network to improve our career, our professional development and our practice. But if you’re not a born socialite, where do you start? Here are some practical ways that pharmacy professionals can develop their networking skills at any stage of their career.

Bite-size chunks

Use sub-headings to deliver your message in bite-size chunks. Readers will scan through the article and pause on headings that appeal to them most. Treat these sub-headings like mini-titles; they should be enticing and describe what you are explaining in that section. They should also relate back to the main title and aim of the article.

Taking the example of the networking article above, some relevant sub-headings might be:

  • How to network at a conferenceHow to network through social media
  • How to remember everyone’s name
  • How to make a good first impression
  • How to make sure you’re not forgotten

You’ll notice that these sub-headings are also consistent, starting with How to…

This makes the sections of the article easy for the reader to scan and find the information they are interested in.

Write for the reader

You’re immersed in your work. Acronyms and jargon are like your second language. But your audience will not be so well versed. Imagine writing for an intelligent but uninformed reader: someone who will understand what you say, as long as you explain it well. Writing for an audience outside of your area of expertise will widen the impact of your work.

Also think about the publication you are writing for. A style which suits an academic peer-reviewed journal is very different from the style you need for a magazine or a blog. And lastly, don’t be afraid to use your own voice to inject some personality into the article. 

Leave your audience satisfied

The concluding paragraph or sentence is as important as the first.

Try summarising your article in one or two sentences. Go back to your title and answer the question you posed (for example, Pharmacists feel overworked and overwhelmed, and this may be the reason for their substantial coffee consumption).

Or you could leave your readers with an action point, such as Introduce yourself to three new people at your next conference, and send them a follow up email the next day, or invite them to enter the debate: If you’ve had a similar experience, or have an opposing view, leave a comment on the article or get in touch.

Review and edit

Now that you’ve got a good draft of your article, leave it for a couple of days and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Ask a friend or colleague to look over it and listen to their feedback – if something isn’t clear to them, the chances are it won’t be clear to many others. Reading your article out loud can also help you see if it makes sense and flows well.

Help is at hand

If you’re writing for Rx magazine, we have experienced editors who can help with polishing your article so that it’s ready for publication. The best way to write is to just start writing. Writing is a skill that you can learn and continually improve upon, and the best way to do this is to practice.

We would love to hear from you if you have an idea for an article that you would like to discuss, or if you have one ready that you would like to submit. Get in touch at editor@rxmagazine.org.

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