Writing tips

dietitian_writingYou will be reading this because you want to write for Dietetics Today or have been asked to produce an article for the magazine. Before we get down to the practical tips on how to produce a good article, there a few points you should consider before starting:

  • Is the article topic original?
  • Why are you about to write this article?
  • What is the purpose and key message for the audience?
  • Is the subject matter thought-provoking?
  • Will the article have wide appeal to BDA members? Why?

Practical points when submitting your article:

The article should be typed in Microsoft Word and emailed to the editor: editor@bda.uk.com

It is helpful if you submit an article with a file name such as your surname and topic, e.g. ‘Jones_Eating Disorders’.

Please supply a photo of yourself with the article (a head shot in JPEG format).

Writing tips: 

Heading

Give your article an attention-grabbing headline. If you can’t think of one straight away, try and come back to it after you have written the article.

Introduction

Your introduction to the article needs to grab the browser’s attention; it needs to engage the reader instantly by clearly stating what the article is about. Attention-grabbing techniques can include: presenting an interesting fact, posing a question, stating an opinion. The introduction needs to encourage the reader to stick with the article. The introduction is not a summary of the article, and should contain only two or three facts.

Paragraphs

Long paragraphs can put a reader off. Keep paragraphs to four sentences or fewer. Start a new paragraph each time you make a new point.

Language

Dietetics Today is read by many dietitians who hold down very busy jobs. When they read DT, we want to make it easy for them to digest the information they are reading rather than using overly complex language that makes reading and understanding more difficult. So, please use plain English when writing. As a general rule, use short words rather than long ones.

Sentences  

Use short sentences. They make text a lot easier to read. Keep your sentences under 25 words.

Active voice

We prefer the active voice in articles. The active voice is clearer and uses fewer words. In the passive voice, subjects are having things done to them. In the active voice, the subjects are doing things. For example:

The mat was sat upon by the cat. (passive)

The cat sat on the mat. (active)

Reader engagement

While writing, think about how you can keep your readers hooked to the article. The reader should feel like they have learned something new or been on a journey. Use interesting facts, questions and descriptions in your writing. Use emotion where relevant; the reader needs to feel your passion for the subject you are writing about.

Proper comma use  

The comma is commonly misused or ignored. Here are some examples of where you would use a comma:

In lists – Tom was large, kind, friendly man.

For joining sentences – It was a cold day, yet she had no warm coat.

To fill in for missing words – Helen has fair hair; Sarah, dark.

Before direct speech – The doctor said, “You should see a dietitian.”

To set additional information apart from the main sentence – Diabetes, an incurable condition in which the body cannot control blood sugar levels, is on the rise in the UK.

Subheadings

It’s easier for readers to digest information if the copy has regular breaks in it. Use subheadings to break up the text and give the readers time to digest what they have just read. Subheadings also introduce what to expect next and clarify what is in the following copy.

Quotes  

Use quotes to make your article more interactive and engaging. If using direct quotes from colleagues or other people, please remember to ask their permission.

Referencing  

Please use the Vancouver system for referencing rather than Harvard.

The Vancouver system is where references are numbered consecutively in order of appearance in the text – they are identified by Arabic numnerals in superscript1. Different formats exist for different types of sources, e.g. books, journal articles and so on.

There are lots of useful websites that will guide you how to use the Vancouver system. If you have difficulties with this referencing style please contact the Dietetics Today editor who can talk you through it.