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I really appreciate all your e-mails and notes about interesting articles and topics for Home Healthcare Nurse. With that in mind, I would like to provide you with basic writing tips generally, and specifically for Home Healthcare Nurse. Whether a new, first time, or experienced writer, these are what I have come to learn are the fundamentals of good writing. For Home Healthcare Nurse and anyone else who is going to be reading your writing, interesting context and knowledge of the subject are the keys to success. It's very important for professionals to write for professional publications. Reasons include increasing the body of evidence-based practice knowledge; keeping up to date on continually changed information; having the newest, best information on clinical practice; benchmarking your organization with peer organizations; getting more home care and hospice literature in the public record for policy makers; having cost-effective CEs; and many more!!


When talking with new writers, I notice a theme of common obstacles to writing. The most frequent ones include "I don't have time"; "I don't understand formatting"; "APA is confusing"; "I don't know enough about any one topic"; "I don't have something important to say" (we call that "finding your voice"); and numerous other impediments to successful writing and publication. Let me say here that all writers have blocks or identify reasons NOT to write. From my perspective, the advent of e-mail is the best interruption I could have created. Others might include "it's a nice day outside"; "the laundry needs done"; "there are other numerous priorities"; and I am sure you can add some here. I like to call these the "P's" that impede your successful writing. Some of the Ps include procrastination, perfectionism, and prioritization; but they all have the same fix-sitting down in a chair for some space of time and not getting up until you have met a predetermined goal. This goal can be measured in time, 30 minutes or 2 hours, or in output of words, one page, two pages, completion of article, and so on.

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The other most frequent question I get is what a good article "looks like"-meaning the kinds of articles that generally have a positive peer review (assuming the topic is of interest, the science/evidence is strong, up-to-date references, etc.).


Poor manuscript symptoms:


* Disjointed


* Does not "flow"


* Contains typos


* Missing references


* Makes strong statements without citations/references


* Not proofread/spell-checked before submission


* Sounds like a paper for school


* Reflects not reading/adhering to the journal's author guidelines


* Does not reflect purview of chosen journal for possible publication


* Makes assumptions


* Out-of-date/irrelevant references


* Poor title/ information does not support title


* References in article are not listed in reference list


* References not in APA or other chosen format


* Others



Sadly, many of these listed "symptoms" could have been avoided with a careful review of the author guidelines, and several proofreadings. The best thing I can say about proofreading is to put an article away for 2 to 3 days and then read it like you've never seen it before. The other way to do this is to give the manuscript to a trusted colleague who was not involved in writing the article. Sometimes, because you, the author, know so much about a given topic, it's easy to make assumptions that we all know-your trusted colleague can easily identify gaps and areas where the dots might not connect clearly. So the goal of any new writer is to get to the next list of symptoms.


Good manuscript symptoms:


* Paper "flows"


* Scientific or knowledge-based statements are backed up by citations/references


* References are up to date and from peer-reviewed sources


* All information in the article supports the title


* Author guidelines are followed related to word count


* APA format


* Double spaced and has page numbers per author guidelines


* Interesting


* Presents new material or updates known material in an interesting manner


* Readers learn new information for practice/management


* Readers want to read the entire article


* Boxes/figures/tools/tables support the manuscript information and add interest


* Topic pertains to the journal


* Logical order for the readers to understand content


* Makes a good CE


* Others



There are two books I recommend for both new and experienced writers and those seeking to become published authors. In fact, these books will not just sit on your shelves but, if you choose to be a writer, will be read more than once. They are:


* Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (30th anniversary ed.), New York, NY: Harper Collins; 2006 (one of my all time favorites!!).


* Saltzman, Joel. If You Can Talk, You Can Write. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing; 1993.



I welcome your e-mails and queries. In fact, a list of possible topics for Home Healthcare Nurse is in the January 2010 issue of HHN-in case you need ideas!! You can find this list on the HHN website at


I look forward to hearing from you!!



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Tina M. Marrelli