These notes are for anyone considering posting a blog on evidence-based subjects but especially for those with little or no previous experience of writing blogs.
Carl Heneghan, Jeff Aronson
- Keep it simple Tackle only one problem or issue. Tell the reader why it is interesting and important. If it doesn’t interest YOU, write about something else.
- Keep it short To cater for today’s short attention spans, limit your blog to 800 words (like these instructions). There is no lower limit–sometimes even 300 words can convey an important message.
- Write clearly Use plain English (see the Economist’s style guide). Consider defining specialised terms, listing definitions in a separate box. Here are a few examples of how to unclutter your writing:
- Choose an enticing title In editing your blog we shall create a top line quote, highlighting the main point. Your title is the ‘first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader.’ So make it compelling, like these examples:
- Consider starting at the end Starting with your conclusion is called the Inverted Pyramid style, which means putting the most important information up front, to act as a hook. Then logically guide the reader through the argument that leads to the conclusion.
- Set the scene Describe the most newsworthy information: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? (see here); this can help in setting the scene, and context, for your blog.
- Cite the relevant evidence Well-researched blogs stand out. Include the most recent high-quality evidence, preferably the highest level of evidence you can find (see the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine Levels of Evidence). It is desirable to cite relevant systematic reviews, particularly to give context to the results of a new study.
- When searching for evidence consider using the PubMed Clinical Queries interface, entering the appropriate search term and [TI].
- Instead of references, use hyperlinks (highlight the text to which the citation refers, key Control K, and paste in the URL).
- Remember the patient If you are discussing the results of a new study, say what differences, if any, the results might make to patient care.
- Criticize the study when necessary Consider the effects on the study results of any biases or confounding factors. Based on the likely impact of the results, threats to validity, or other lines of debate (e.g. conflict with the results of other studies), provide a summary (with a bottom line) that will inform real-world care.
- Include images It is good to stimulate readers visually. Try to include one or two pictures. [Don’t forget to obtain copyright permission or use images already in the public domain.] The featured images must be 380 x 250 pixels.
- Reflect, refer, and revise When you’ve finished writing, put the piece away for a day or two, then go back and edit it, making it snappier, correcting possible errors, and adding important points you may have forgotten the first time. Meanwhile, you should have sent it to colleagues, asking them to read it critically.
- Engage When it’s published, advertise it on Twitter and whatever forms of social media you prefer. If others comment on your blog, engage with them, if what they’re saying seems important.
Carl Heneghan, Editor in Chief
Jeff Aronson, Associate Editor BMJ EBM