Writing Tips For Medical Assistants

Rosemary Fruehling, a writer and lecturer, states "Business writing is good when it achieves the purpose the author intended. The first paragraph of a letter should hold the reader's attention and elicit a response if required." If the reader has to wander through several paragraphs to discover what the writer wants, the letter is of little value to the sender.Medical assistants will vary in their writing abilities. However, a clear purpose, continued practice, and an understanding of writing fundamentals will enable all medical assistants to write clearly and accurately.            
1. Identify Topics
Before beginning, organize your thoughts by:    
a) writing down key points on index cards
b) organizing cards in a logical sequence.    

2. Use Clear and Concise Language    
a) Respect the reader and use language the audience will understand.
b) Be courteous.
c) State the reason for the letter in the first paragraph.    
d) Use positive words and phrases; avoid negative words when possible.    
e) Choose unambiguous words and phrases; do not confuse the reader.    

3. Establish Tone of Voice
Be personable and cordial in tone; some letters may be formal, others informal. However, professional correspondence should never be overly familiar.

4. Follow Office Style
a) Review previous correspondence or an in-office style manual to identify correct format and style.    
b) Use the same format for all office correspondence.    

5. Encourage Response    
Write the closing paragraph to encourage action.    

6) Spelling
Be certain all the written communications have no misspelled or incorrectly used words. Make a list of words that you often misspell and alphabetize them in a notebook. Several computer word processing software packages contain English/Medical spell check features. A new word that is not currently identified in the Spell Check or Medical Check package may be added to the program. When you check a spelling in the dictionary, develop the habit of reading the definition as well. This will help you imprint the correct spelling and meaning of the word.

7) Confusing and Misused Words
Be certain that the word is used correctly. For example, "there" or "their" are both spelled correctly; however, be certain to use the word with the correct meaning. If in doubt, check a dictionary to differentiate between similar sounding words. Do not use the word unless certain of correct usage.

8) Proofreading
Prior to mailing any correspondence, check the letter for errors such as misspelled words, missing words, and inverted characters. Some tips to remember are:    
1. Do not proofread when tired.
2. Prepare the document, set it aside, proofread it later.
3. Read in several short time frames if the document is long.    
4. Avoid proofreading on the computer screen. Print a hard copy to proof.
5. Read sentence backwards to check for spelling. (Caution, the word may be correct; however, the usage may be incorrect.)
6. If proofing a long document, read it to another person and have this person check sentence structure.
7. Use a card or ruler to hold under the line you are reading to maintain your place in the document.    
Proofreading marks most commonly used are shown in Figure 16-1. There are many additional proofing marks.