How a heart doctor helped one medical writer

What communicators can learn from cardiologists about clear writing.

What communicators can learn from cardiologists about clear writing

The best writing advice I ever received didn’t come from an editor or a college professor, but from a doctor.

More than two decades ago, then a young writer helping to create a communications field now known as science or medical reporting, I set off to interview a cardiologist about investigational heart drugs that promised to make life better for millions of people with heart disease.

I read up as much as I could before the interview (and before the days when the Internet makes finding information finger-tip easy). With my heart racing, I asked questions and listened. Finally, the doctor looked at me and said: “It’s like this. Suppose you were a firefighter and couldn’t get enough water on the fire. What would you do?”

I paused and stared at him, my jaw probably hanging. We were talking about heart medications, weren’t we? Not firefighting.

Fortunately, the doctor answered his own question: “You’d either get a bigger hose or you’d increase your ability to pump water.”

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