Welcome back! Since January, we’ve covered lots of material about writing—from concept to draft to submission to publication. We’ll recap highlights this month, then end the year by reviewing an actual manuscript before and after editing.
Why Write for EMS?
Not for the money; it doesn’t pay much. Better to think of writing as a fresh challenge within the EMS community—one that exercises skills you might not even know you have. Now is a good time to take advantage of unprecedented demand for material, particularly by online media. You’ll have a chance to:
Share your knowledge. Think how much you’ve learned about EMS through informal channels. You can help colleagues do the same.
Learn by teaching. Is there a better way to master a topic than by presenting it to others?
Network. Getting published opens doors, personally and professionally.
Perhaps you’ve already picked a topic to write about. If not, one good way to generate fresh ideas is to engage in mindless activity—e.g., gardening, driving, standing in a hot shower. You could also try observing people and places. Either way, your goal should be to add value to topics so your audience feels they’ve invested their time wisely. I enjoy reading almost anything that entertains, educates or stimulates me.
Consider job-related essays about:
Something that worked. When we share success stories with colleagues, patients are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Something that could work better. Techniques, customs, policies, procedures—you live with them, and you know them. Innovation isn’t always popular, but it’s an important part of developing best practices.
Story proposals introduce you to media contacts. Editors will gauge your communication skills even before they judge the value of your topic. Be brief, clear and professional. Include details about:
You. Who are you? What are you doing? What’s the best way to contact you?
Your idea. In a paragraph or two, explain what, why and how you’re planning to write.
Don’t submit the same proposal to more than one publisher simultaneously, don’t promise anything you can’t deliver and don’t ignore feedback from editorial staffs.
Here are a few ways to express yourself:
Stories. Real-life incidents or hypothetical scenarios can help illustrate your views. Just remember that stories have beginnings (introduction of characters and scenes), middles and ends (outcomes that accentuate content).
Analogies. Subtle or explicit, analogies help readers get your point.
Facts and opinions. Make sure you differentiate between the two. Be explicit about what you think or feel versus what you know.
Quotations. You can use credible sources to support your theme.
Copyrights—registered or not—protect original creations in physical form such as text, audio, video and graphics. You can’t copyright thoughts, ideas or facts.
The rule of fair use dictates that you may mention or reproduce limited portions of copyrighted material without explicit permission. However, you may not present such work as your own or use it for commercial purposes.
Include quotation marks and citations to attribute copyrighted material.
Grammar and Syntax
Grammar, “the form and structure of words,” and syntax, “the arrangement and relationship among words,” are the “protocols” of writing. Mastering grammar and syntax depends heavily on comprehensive instruction during primary and secondary schooling. Ongoing practice might compensate for some deficiencies, but the best remediation is to read lots of well-written prose.
Common grammar and syntax errors are:
• Sentences that don’t express complete thoughts.
• Misuse of commas, colons, semicolons and dashes.
• Reliance on passive, rather than active forms of speech.
• Picking the wrong homonym, e.g., there vs. their vs. they’re.