By Professor Mark Taubert BMJ SPC Journal Editor & Blog Curator Twitter
Here are some tips if you are hoping to write an article for our highly accessed blog series.
“This article is boring, just bloody boring!” said the editor-in-chief (EIC) at the journal editorial meeting.
“This research writing,” he fumed, “covers important new ground, but it’s a long article and quite frankly I got so tired reading through all of it, that I had to go for a walk and pour myself a double whisky, before I could go back to it”.
“Just blog it”, shouted an associate editor from the back rows.
“Pardon me, no swear words please!?” exclaimed the red-faced EIC, grasping his inhaler and taking a deep puff.
But the associate editor, in this fictitious dialogue, had made a suggestion that can be helpful in creating a hook for a specific topic: a blog, written in a short, informal style, can create a gateway to the longer journal article, and coax people into wanting to read more about important topics.
So here are a few tips, if you want to write a blog to get people interested about some work you have done, or a longer article you have submitted. Or perhaps you want to drive people to another team’s work, and use your own style and enthusiasm to convince everyone why it is worth their time to dive deeper into this topic area. So here are 5 top tips. Feel free to suggest more in the comment box below.
- Plain English, please. This is your chance to present the topic to a wider audience, including people who are just starting out learning about it. Microsoft Word has a feature that let’s you check your article for its readability and reading age, which you may find interesting. Don’t use long sentences. Keep them short. And if you have a long sentence that can be split into two, do it.
- Hook the readership into wanting to read more (and provide embedded hyperlinks to your longer article). Start with a controversial remark. See what I did at the start of this blog? You can use a provocative statement to get readers hot under the collar to read more, or you can use a story or anecdote. Perhaps there’s a controversy surrounding your medical topic of choice, and you can tap into people’s concerns, whilst also presenting some potential solutions
- Keep it simple. Don’t cover too much ground, just focus on one topic. You can always write another blog, on another day about the other topic(s) that are associated with the area you are writing about
- Know your target audience. Who are you writing for? If it is a piece on the controversies of assisted hydration in the last days of life, is your article aimed at healthcare professionals who grapple with the decisions on harm versus benefit of starting or stopping fluids
- And the sinker? Put something personal and human into your blog! Research articles can be long and impersonal, whereas blogs can show a photo of your team. It can help people connect to you, and might even prompt more people to get in touch, compared to the full length pay-wall protected article. We particularly liked the photo submitted by Dr Arjun Kingdon for his blog on assisted hydration (see below). But do please make sure you send your photo in rotated correctly, not like this customer, for instance, who is performing an unintentional 90 degree head-tilt.
Some other blog examples from our series can be found below. Please keep blog articles under 1000 words, ideally around 500, and also provide author details, name, institutions, emails (optional) and social media profile links at the start of the article.
Lots of articles and medical topics may require an easily accessible ‘gate-way’ blog, so do get in touch with the editorial team if you are interested.
A blog about end-of-life mouth care by two dental professionals: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2020/08/20/end-of-life-mouth-care-the-experiences-of-two-dental-professionals/
A blog summarising the findings of a systematic review on cachexia: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2021/03/11/efficacy-and-safety-of-pharmacological-cachexia-interventions-systematic-review-and-network-meta-analysis/
A blog about breaking bad news: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2017/02/09/palliative-care-in-space-breaking-bad-news-to-a-satellite/
A blog by a patient: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2020/12/12/slipping-through-the-net/
A blog linking to a longer research article https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2020/05/26/improving-palliative-care-through-digital-health-technology/
A blog about a teaching method: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2019/09/03/simulation-in-palliative-care-education/
A travelogue style blog about a research conference: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2019/05/29/from-our-very-own-correspondent-dr-minton-the-16th-eapc-world-congress-in-berlin/
A blog by a bereaved carer: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2018/09/14/how-social-media-expanded-my-world-by-a-bereaved-carer/
A blog linked to an education initiative: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2017/11/28/serious-illness-conversations-cymru/
An interview about a public health campaign: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2018/07/17/compassionate-country-wales/