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Guidelines for Contributors

THCB welcomes contributions from readers. I often publish pieces and am happy to allow contributors to either use their own name, or use a pseudonym.  If you want to use a pseudonym I need to know who you are, but I will of course keep that information in confidence. I always make clear when it’s my writing or that of a contributor both by giving a by-line in the title and by using indentation and different fonts. Regular readers will see this automatically, I hope.

There are only a few ground rules for contributors. The topic has to be on some aspect of health care that should be of interest to THCB readers, but as most contributors are readers that’s usually assumed. If you are contributing please save your piece in .txt or .rtf format. Using Word causes a lot of translation problems with its special characters, and just sending it in an email also often requires a lot of work on reformatting at this end.

Finally, although I print much of what I’m sent, THCB of course retains editorial control. I won’t publish anything without asking (or telling) you, but I assume that anything I’m emailed is fair game. Just use common sense and of course if you expressly do NOT want something published please tell me. And I’m not going into legalities about copyright, who owns what, and all that guff — but I’ll reserve the right to say more about that if in some happy future day this site ever starts adding to my bank account rather than subtracting from it!

— Matthew Holt

That being said, here’s some advice THCB editor Sarah Arnquist.

Want to improve your writing and make THCB editors happy? Follow these basic guidelines.Get to the point quickly. That means in the first or second paragraph. People are more likely to continue reading your post if you tell them what you’re writing and why early. Remember these: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW? Try to answer them early in your post.Avoid acronyms whenever possible. A good rule is that if your spouse wouldn’t know what the acronym is – spell it out on first reference. So CEO is fine, but PHR should be personal health record (PHR) on first reference. Watch out for jargon. Yes, you are writing for your peers, but it might be nice if a less informed person stumbled onto your post and learned something from it. Right? If the post is full of jargon, that won’t happen. Inevitably, some “insider terms” will slip through, but be cautious.When quoting statistics, a concept or popular entity ADD LINKS to either the original source (ideal) or a secondary source, such as Wikipedia or a newspaper article. Because we don’t put end notes in our stories, and constantly saying according to or reported in etc. is tiresome, this is a way to add credibility to your post. It also gives readers the opportunity to learn more.The nitty gritty details:Health care is two words. ALWAYS –- at least on our blog. Use ONE SPACE between sentences. This isn’t a term paper. This is Web writing.Use quotation marks to indicate quotes, and very rarely in other circumstances. Using quotes in attempts to be witty rarely is successful. Mostly, it will only confuse readers.Along those lines – punctuation ALWAYS goes within “quotation marks.” Note the period is before the quotation mark.When using the em dash -– use it judiciously. It’s really difficult to read a paragraph filled with breaks.Don’t take editing personally.If THCB sends a submission back to you with suggestions on how to improve it, don’t take it as a personal attack on your writing abilities. We ALL need editors, who provide a fresh set of eyes and offer important suggestions to make your article more concise and understandable. If you have any questions e-mail sarah@thehealthcareblog.com.

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