Web Writing Kept Simple

May 27, 2010
Randall Wong, MD

One crucial aspect of knowing your audience is writing at a level your reader can understand. When I write for my blog, I am constantly reminding myself that I am not writing for my colleagues or even old, seasoned, patients.

One crucial aspect of knowing your audience is writing at a level your reader can understand. When I write for my blog, I am constantly reminding myself that I am not writing for my colleagues or even old, seasoned, patients.

Instead, I am writing to "new" inexperienced patients/readers. These are people motivated to learn. In my case, these are people who probably never heard of the retina before. They are just like a new patient in the office.

These new readers are just learning my language.

Medicine is a Foreign Language - Learning medicine is no different than learning a foreign language. Translating what we know to our patients in terms that are understandable is very difficult. Some of us are good at it and most of us are not.

Writing to Your Audience - When you are writing for your Web site, keep the level of difficulty simple. Remember that many people in the United States do not go to college, yet more than half the population turns to the Internet for medical and health related questions.

Reading to Understand - Most readers have questions, especially on health sites. Writing that is too technical, or too clinical, isn't worth their time. Your readers, or your prospective patients, are going to "bounce" in a few seconds. Bouncing is that act of landing on a Web page and leaving without clicking on anything. If a reader can't understand your writing because it's full of mumbo jumbo, they'll leave.

How to Fix the Mumbo Jumbo - Here are my suggestions:

Use keywords. Remember that keywords are the most frequently used words to "search" a topic. For instance, "ophthalmologist," "optometrist" and "eye doctor" all mean the same thing. "Eye doctor" is a better keyword as it is more apt to be used when the average person is searching the Internet. Thus, by using popular keywords, you are automatically writing at the level of most readers on the Web.

You may want to try using a keyword tool (search "keyword tool") to see how unpopular, or technical, your writing has become.

There are keyword software packages that will analyze your writing, determine which are your keywords, and rank them according to popularity on the Web.

Proofreaders are also terrific. They can be your staff, spouse, friend, or family member. But don't choose your colleague - they know too much.