Saturday, September 25, 2010

Making Amends to the F.A. Davis Essay Winner, 2010

Sometimes I'm an idiot.

Last night, during the Excel Awards Reception at the annual conference for the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), I inadvertantly gave short shrift to the winner of the F.A. Davis Student Award for best essay. I'd like to make amends here.

Margaret Palermo, a student at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, noted in her winning essay that she has gone on nine trips to third-world countries to help out. Most recently, she traveled to Haiti after the earthquake to help treat over 500 people in only three days. Margaret wrote, "Being a member of the AAMA and receiving certification as a CMA (AAMA) not only gives me the opportunity to be part of a highly professional organization, but enhances my continuous learning experience in the medical field."

Congratulations, Margaret, and best wishes for a long and properous career as a CMA (AAMA)!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Strunk and White’s Principles Still Apply

Anyone interesting in writing better absolutely must have a copy of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, close by their side. This little book houses some of the best advice you'll ever read about writing well.

Here's a selection of core writing principles we all should apply to our own writing. My favorite is the fourth on this list, "Omit needless words." Could it be said anymore clearly or succinctly? Nope.

  • Use the active voice.

  • Put statements in positive form.

  • Use definite, specific, concrete language.

  • Omit needless words.

  • Avoid a succession of loose sentences.

  • Express coordinate ideas in similar form.

  • Keep related words together.

  • In summaries, keep to one tense.

  • Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.

And while we're on the subject of keeping things simple, here's the other bible: On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction, by William Zinsser. I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar he held at the University of Hartford several years ago, and he speaks like he writes—simply, clearly, and to the point. Good advice.