CJON Writing Supplement
May/June Supplement 2001, Volume 5, Number 3
You Can Do It
Personally, I hate to write. I remember feeling better about admitting this when I read that the late E.B. White, a superb New Yorker writer and author of the classics Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, said that he did not find writing to be any fun. When he wanted to have fun, he said, he went sailing.
Some people look at an empty pad (or screen) and revel in the task of filling it. If you're not one of those people, but you believe you have information to share, ideas to articulate, or questions to ask and you know that communication is a professional responsibility, here's some encouragement. Nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing your words in print and your byline at the top of a printed page.
As a reluctant writer, I have picked up some rituals over the years that have helped me get the job done.
First, I keep a 35-word summary of the points I want to make on a 3" × 5" card on my desk in front of me as I write. When I was editor of The American Journal of Nursing, we had an editorial consultant, a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, who would come to a staff meeting every month and critique that month's issue, page by page. He insisted that the summary, kept right in front of you, held you to the essential points of your article and kept you from going off on tangents. He was also a martinet about using the active voice.
Another not only useful but also essential trick is to read your draft aloud. Your ear will recognize mistakes in grammar or awkwardness in phrasing sooner than your eye will.
Another helpful habit is to keep Roget's Thesaurus at your fingertips. It offers a variety of substitutes for words you have used too often or jargon you are trying to avoid.
Perhaps the most important ritual of all is to face the demon of the blank page, take up pen or cursor, and write. We hope this supplement will get you started.
Former editor and publisher of the American Journal of Nursing