Warmth. Empathy. Emotion. These three words certainly aren’t the ones that jump to mind when you think of medical communications, are they? And considering that the medical profession is centred around keeping humans well and healthy, this is weird, right?
Sure, medicine is confusing. From doctors with their stereotypical illegible writing, to surgeons in films who throw so many acronyms around that you need to pause Netflix to Google what an “AVR” is (it’s an aortic valve replacement).
But our role as medical writers is to cut through all that jargon to make the audience care. Because simple and emotive messaging is much easier to digest than cold and clinical communications, which makes people switch off faster than Chris Whitty can say ‘next slide please’.
And even though our job isn’t to make people laugh, there are some really simple ways to move the needle away from a scientific tone, towards something that’s a joy to read, rather than a slog.
We’ve got 5 ways to inject more humanness into your copy…
Use the language of your audience
If what you’re writing is aimed at medical specialists, dumbing everything down into everyday terminology would be too patronising. Likewise, if you’re writing to a more mainstream audience, technical words and acronyms might not land well with them.
So you need to make a judgement call on your tone and language before you begin.
Knowing what words and phrases your reader will understand will help your piece feel more natural for them to read, and much more human.
Use simple wordplay
Rhymes don’t only belong in poetry. By dropping the occasional rhyme into the middle of a sentence, or by making the final word of two flowing sentences have a similar ending – like “nation” and “operation”, your copy will feel more like music than a random spattering of monotonous words.
And there’s no need for alliteration to be exclusively for slogan writers (although P-P-P Pick up a Penguin is still one of the greatest lines of all time). Using the same first initial in two or three words in a row makes those words roll off the tongue.
Both of these techniques give your writing a little more personality. And they’re a nice signal to your reader that you were thinking of them while writing, which again adds a touch of humanity.
Follow the rule of three
This is a writing principle based around information being easier to digest and remember when it comes in threes. Think three little pigs, Snap Crackle and Pop, past present and future, hook line and sinker, and these little guys > 🙉🙈🙊.
Oh, and who can forget the UK Government’s Covid-19 safety slogans?
This stuff doesn’t happen by accident, so whenever you’re summing-up your take-home messages, be sure to list them in threes for maximum impact.
Put benefits before features
When you’re writing about a product or a service, instead of leading with the facts and figures about what it is, begin by describing the ways it’ll improve the reader’s life.
Let’s say you’re writing about a new piece of monitoring equipment that sends alerts to a caregiver’s phone app when a patient’s vital statistics change. The feature is “revolutionary smart healthcare technology”, but the benefit is “keeping tabs on patients from anywhere”.
Features are best introduced once you’ve made an emotional (and more human) connection with your reader through the benefits.
Read your stuff out loud
When copy speaks well, it reads well. So once you’ve finished your first draft, read it back to yourself out loud. Doing this will help you spot any phrases that feel out of place, any sentences that feel too abrupt, and any paragraphs that feel a bit too waffly.
If you don’t trip over any words or run out of breath, your copy should now be fit for human consumption.
That’s all there is to it.
Just a few little tricks to bring some warmth, empathy and emotion into whatever you’re writing.
And there goes the rule of three again…