10 Tips to Make You a Better Writer

Writing anything can be daunting, especially if it is something that you don’t do often. The blank page can be discouraging, and we feel pressured or cursed to be perfect writers after too many years of listening to high school English teachers who expected your first draft to be perfect. Every word can be a struggle to put on paper or screen, but writing doesn’t have to be so difficult.

The first trick is to set yourself in the chair and begin.

So, how do we brave this all-too-intimidating task?  These ten tips can help you take your idea from the blank page to the finished project. 

  1. Beat writer’s block before it starts by getting over your fear of the blank page.
    The sculptor can’t make a bowl without clay on the wheel, and a writer can’t work without words on the page.  One of the easiest ways to get past the paralysis is to set a timer for 30-60 seconds and write as quickly as you can anything and everything that comes to mind—even if it is words, phrases, notes, drawings, doodles—get it out of your head and onto the page.  Get those ideas flowing! No one will ever see this idea dump except you. Remember this exercise is only a warmup; it isn’t your draft.  This is Pre-Writing.  It could look something like this:

    Okay, I don’t know what to write. La la la la…I am supposed to write for 30 seconds, and the second hand is going so slowly but I have no idea what to write, so what is this thing that I have to write about? L:L ???? Oh, yeah, it is an article about how to make yourself a better writer, and I have to come across as someone who knows what they are doing, which I do, but still how do I narrow it down to only ten?  Of course, just get over your fear of the blank page….

    As you can see, most of that freewriting won’t be used, but these rambling words mean that the page isn’t blank anymore.  Other words can be added; other words can be taken away.  By allowing yourself to write whatever comes to mind, you have permitted yourself to simply put words down without fighting your inner critic. 

  2. Make an outline for what you need to write about. The outline doesn’t need to have Roman numerals or capital and lower case A’s and B’s as we learned in school. That type of outline can be helpful but isn’t necessary. Instead, simply jot down topics in the general order that you want to cover. This will ensure you do not forget any points you want to make.

  3. Consider your audience. Who will be reading what you have written?  What are their education level(s) and their knowledge of the material?  Your vocabulary, word choice, and length of your writing should be tailored for your audience.

  4. Throw out any sentences, phrases, and words that do not fit your narrative – regardless of how good they sound to you otherwise.  If they don’t fit the writing requirement, toss them out.  Instead, save them in a file to use at another time, but don’t hold on to phrases that do not further your narrative.  Even a rose can be a weed if it is growing in the wrong place. 

  5. Proofread, revise, proofread, revise. Repeat. Yes, “proofread” and “revise” sound the same, but they have subtle differences. Proofreading is to check for the correct word, a comma, or semi-colon out of place. Revision is to check for excess words or a turn of phrase that doesn’t quite fit.  You need to do both several times as you write.

    Check each of the following in your writing:
    • Proper use of commas and other punctuation. As a writer, nothing matters as much as the basic guidelines for punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

    • Do not rely solely on proofing and editing apps. Their use is limited at best – especially in legal and medical writing. 

    • Show, don’t tell. The old adage still stands true. Give details that touch the senses. 
      Example: “Her eyes burned, and her fists clenched, but she wouldn’t allow herself to cry.” vs. “She was angry.”

    • Subject/modifier agreement. Remember “each,” “nothing,” “everyone,” and “everybody” are all singular and use a singular verb such as “goes” or “has.”

    • Eliminate excess and filler words or phrases such as “just,” “there are/is,” and “basically.” These words and phrases are great when you have a word count to fulfill, but they show a lack of maturity and lessen the impact of your writing.

    • Avoid clichés like the plague! Use original descriptions, similes, and metaphors to captivate your readers. Entertain them regardless of the subject material.  You are a writer; use your own words!

  6. Make the words become a melody instead of a redundant repetition. Make sure your sentences are a balanced combination of long and short sentences with varying styles. This will make for more interesting and memorable writing.

  7. Put your draft away for a while – preferably a few days.  If you have time, put it away between any major rewrites. It helps to see the writing with fresh eyes, and the words and phrases that sound odd will be easier for you to find. 

  8. Proofread from the bottom up. Read the last sentence, then read the second to last sentence, and so on. You will find run-on sentences, fragments, and sentences that simply don’t make sense far more easily.

  9. Writing is not a linear project. As you write, you may outline, then pre-write, then you may write some more, then edit or go back to outlining.  It depends on what you need at the time.  Remember, writing isn’t an A to Z process.

  10. Accept that, ultimately, perfection doesn’t exist in writing, and you have to let it go. You have a creation, and you shouldn’t hold on to it forever.  Eventually, it will be time to put it out into the world. 

Now, let the words fly! 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Grammar Resources for Medical Analysts and Legal Nurse Consultants

No matter how good we are at grammar, it’s nice to lean on external resources to assist with writing projects. It helps to have assistance with finding the right word or phrase and when you ask, “Where does a semi-colon go again?” 

Here are the five best resources and when to use them:

1. Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White [Book]
The book Elements of Style, commonly called Strunk and White, guides and directs how American English is written and spoken. This book is frequently required for students from grade school through post-graduate programs. When you have grammar or syntax questions, this is the book to reference. It reviews grammar and punctuation and how to phrase something to sound exactly right, regardless of the writing product you are trying to produce.

Tip: Get a copy here for only $5

2. OWL/Purdue Online Writing Lab
Most English instructors and professors refer their students to this website.  It is easy to navigate and maintains the most up-to-date usage of APA and MLA reference styles.  This resource is vital for anyone who needs a guide for writing reports, grants, essays, or papers.

3. Oxford Modern English Grammar by Bas Aarts
This concise resource is great for both British and American English users. The book covers spelling, punctuation, syntax, the proper usage of certain words, and the etymology of a common word.

Tip: Always ask the person you are writing for in which style you should work.

4. APA Style Guide, 7th edition 
Most professions, including medical professions, use the APA writing notation style. This resource is available in both digital and hard copy. It goes over how everything is written from numbers to the use of the Oxford comma. Additionally, it is the definitive resource for referencing articles written for science and medical journals. 

Tip: Always be sure to use the latest edition of the APA Style Guide as the rules change from edition to edition. 

5. English Grammar 101 by Kitty Nash
This website is a simple grammar resource for writers and English as a second language speakers. It reviews basics such as nouns, verbs, and capitalization rules in addition to reviewing troublesome words like lay vs. lie. The website is well organized and very straightforward to use. This is a huge time saver eliminating the need to search the site for buried resources.  

Grammar Assistance Tools: Proceed with caution

While grammar assistance tools like Grammarly and Microsoft Word spelling and grammar check are great tools for your writing, do not rely on them exclusively.  They often find errors where there are not, but more often, they will overlook spelling errors (e.g. “in” vs “inn”), only check the basic punctuation rules, and don’t take into consideration the style you are writing in, like APA or MLA.  Use them cautiously.

5 Proofreading Tips for Legal Nurse Consultants

Copyediting a medical analysis work product for a legal matter differs from copyediting a blog post or white paper.  Aside from grammatical editing, proofreading a work product requires verifying that the information in the work product matches the information that is in the medical records. Accurate documentation is critical for client success.

Legal Nurse Consultants (LNCs) do not always have access to a copy editor to proofread their work products. Attention to detail and concise communication are fundamental skills for LNCs.

Here are five tips to keep in mind while self-proofing your work:

1.) Focus on the details most important to the client

Each client will have a specific set of items and details that are most important to their particular matter. The accuracy of these items is vital. Common items include:

  • Dates
  • Bates references
  • Patient and provider names
  • Product identification and lot numbers
  • Specimen numbers
  • Laboratory results
  • Medication dosages and quantities
  • Times, heights, weights, ages, and other miscellaneous numbers

2.) Self-proof in small batches

Some matters will include large quantities of medical records. Try to proof in small batches, such as per packet of records, or split up large packets. This will help to identify issues such as hyperlink failures or report formatting issues early in the process.

3.) Utilize spelling/grammar check

It is important to run a spelling/grammar check on your work product. Tips for using the spellcheck function include:

  • Quickly access the tool by pressing the F7 key on your keyboard.
  • Ensure the “check grammar” box is checked.
  • The tool may bring up proper nouns or medical terms that it does not recognize that is not misspelled, and it will not always catch words outs of context (Ex: “lumber” vs. “lumbar”).
  • Be sure to use “Ignore All,” “Change All,” and “Add to Dictionary” cautiously.

4.) Date verification

Accurate date representation is imperative in medical analysis. Try approaching date proofing as a separate objective than the spelling and grammar. Tips include:

  • Ensure dates are in chronological order.
  • Look for dates that have extra or missing digits, missing slashes, or are formatted incorrectly/inconsistently.
  • Double-check dates that represent the current year. Sometimes we type the current year out of habit.

5.) Be attuned to your error tendencies

Attune to the errors you tend to make. For example, maybe you tend to misspell “ibuprofen” or to leave the last page off of a bates range. If you find an error, make sure to correct all instances of that error. By pressing Ctrl + F on your keyboard you can search the entire document for all instances of a particular word or name. 

Though proofreading your work product is the final step of the medical analysis process, it is also the most important. It not only guarantees a quality product for your client, but it also creates and maintains a credible reputation for yourself as an LNC professional.   

Tips to Maintain Positivity: Dealing with Social Distancing – A Personal Perspective

Authored by Tamela Turk, Medical Analyst 

Working from home is a perk that some of us have enjoyed for years, but recently, many people are experiencing a remote work setting for the first time in response to coronavirus restrictions. Many positives are associated with work from home, but one of the negatives is social isolation. We do not have the daily personal interaction with co-workers and management that many of us rely on whether we live alone or not.

I absolutely love that my position provides me the opportunity of a remote working environment. Until recently, I lived alone. My daughter and my son lived in a different state. I lived a life of social isolation, but I could go out and have dinner when I felt the urge to be around people. Luckily, I moved near my daughter and son right before the coronavirus became a household word, so at least I have my children near me.  Prior to the move, I dealt with social isolation by going to restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, wineries, ballgames, and visiting family across the country.  All of that changed when social distancing was recommended, and city and states issued stay-at-home orders.  

Since social distancing was recommended, I’ve had to learn to be more creative with my time.  What could I do to keep myself from the doldrums?  I binge watched shows my kids recommended, but that wasn’t enough.  I would laugh, but then go back to watching the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies that are being run 24/7 during this time.  I found myself getting more depressed.  Once the stay-at-home order hit my area, I started feeling a bit claustrophobic.  I had so many plans and now I was stuck at home.  Luckily, my son had moved in right before the order took effect, however, being directed to stay at home when I already worked from home started to mess with my psyche until I took control of it. 

What could I do? 

My outlook changed because it had to.  No more fretting, no more anger. I have no control over the situation so I must make the best of what has been dealt, because it could always be worse. It finally dawned on me that it was spring, a season of rebirth and new beginnings.  I decided to take a drive to explore the area since I recently moved to a new state.  I stumbled upon a state park and the first thing that greeted me was a stunning bald eagle. It was my first sighting ever and it felt like a sign. I saw people fishing along the banks of the lake and the docks all standing a minimum of six feet apart following the national and local guidelines.  I saw a family with 6 small dogs walking in an isolated part of the park and many of the trees were in full bloom.  It reminded me that as the seasons change, so do our lives.  What is here today will be gone in another season.  The drive invigorated me. 

When I came home, I decided to do some spring cleaning and tackle some yard work.  If I am stuck at home, I am going to enjoy my outdoors. I made designs for the backyard flower beds, re-seeded my yard, and used my grill and fire pit for the first time. I went to bed that night feeling accomplished and excited about the next day.

When I woke up the next morning, I got ready like I had a date planned.  Looking in the mirror gave me a huge boost of self-esteem.  I spoke with my daughter and son to plan for the day.  Since my daughter lives in another county, we decided to play a game over the phone via Facetime.  We played Bezzerwizzer, which is a robust version of Trivial Pursuit.  We had a blast!  We decided to have a weekly game day over the phone throughout the stay-at-home order.  Another activity we are planning is to choose a movie to watch and Facetime after to get everyone’s critique. 

There are so many things we can do to busy our minds we just need to be creative.  Some ideas include having a family meal and including others in the family by Facetime or Skype, making a daily phone call to friends and family, building Lego projects, crafting, woodworking, riding bikes, or taking walks.  My son bought a basketball hoop so the two of us can release some frustration, and I can’t wait!  Time to work on my three-point shots.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we were becoming more socially isolated due to technology, but now technology is keeping us in touch with our families, friends, co-workers and communities.  Now is the time to take a page from the past and join it with our present.  Remember what you did as a child, use your mind to create the idea and use technology to include family and friends that cannot join in person. As with the seasons, this too will pass. It is how we deal with crisis that not only impacts us, but everyone else in our lives.  

9 Must Know Legal Terms for LNC’s: Part II (INFOGRAPHIC)

The foundation of  your work as Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC) is based on an understanding of legal terms and concepts. The challenge at times is reaching a shared understanding of those terms and concepts.

Let’s go back to basics as we familiarize ourselves with common legal terminology. As a continuation to our original post 7 Must Know Legal Terms for LNC’s: Part I, we would like to expand the list to 9 additional terms: 

  1. Plaintiff: A plaintiff is the person or party who filed a lawsuit in a court of law. For deceased subjects, the plaintiff is usually the spouse or an adult child of the decedent, acting as the personal representative of the estate of the decedent.

  2. Decedent: The person who has died. In some cases, the lawsuit is brought by the personal representative or next-of-kin of the decedent.

  3. Defendant: The party sued by the plaintiff. There can be more than one defendant. 

  4. Complaint: Typically, once a demand is denied, the claimant files a complaint in a court. This claimant now becomes a plaintiff. A complaint is a pleading document filed by a plaintiff in a court of law that states the facts of the case, the legal basis for the lawsuit (or cause of action), the alleged wrongdoing of the defendant, the injury that resulted from the wrongdoing, and the damages sought by the plaintiff. 

  5. Injury: Injury is the harm suffered by the person, including (1) physical harm, such as disfigurement, additional surgery, (2) pain and suffering such as mental anguish, depression, anxiety; (3) loss of past and future income, (4) loss of enjoyment of life, (5) loss of consortium, (6) death, etc. In lawsuits, injuries are allegations and must be proved to a judge and/or jury.

  6. Products Liability: A products liability lawsuit refers to a lawsuit filed by a consumer typically against the manufacturer of the product based on design defects, manufacturing defects, or failure to warn against a product’s latent danger.

  7. Adverse Event (AE): An adverse event is an undesirable condition caused by the use of the product. 

  8. Verdict: A decision made by a judge or jury in a court of law about a disputed issue. In criminal cases, it’s guilty or not guilty. In medical malpractice, it’s negligent or not negligent. In Products liability, it’s whether the product was defective or whether the manufacturer failed to warn consumers of the dangerous side effects, etc. 

  9. Work Product: Confidential materials prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial. 

Copy of 7

Employee Spotlight: Lending a Helping Hand

People across the world are adjusting to a new normal in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we are all in this together, social distancing can leave us feeling disconnected and lonely. Communities are pulling together to lend a helping hand to make an impact in their neighborhoods. 

Chris Steere, Advance Talent’s Director of Medical and Account Management,  shared a wonderful story of how her and her family are giving back to their community. Outside of work Chris is a talented seamstress. She and her five boys have begun making face masks for their local hospitals and nursing homes. 

Chris found a special pattern requested in her community without elastic that lessen irritation for the workers. She and her family are aiming to have 50 masks completed by the end of this week. 

Hats off to Chris and her family for their dedication to others during this time. We are inspired by your generosity and creativeness. 

If you are interested in making masks or gowns, Chris recommends finding the pattern your community is requesting.

7 Benefits of Mentorship

Mentoring is a motivating career development opportunity. Connecting with a senior professional in your field can provide you invaluable advice and feedback.

Here are 7 benefits of having a mentor and how they are helpful to your career (see below for infographic): 

Professional Network

Having a mentor opens you up to making connections with others in your field and allows you to network with your colleagues. It’s never easy being the new kid on the block. Whether you’re new to the field, or new to the industry, leverage your mentor to make connections within and across your network.  

Business Relationship

Engaging in a mentor/mentee relationship gives you the chance to create and maintain a professional relationship. These skills transfer directly to your career, providing you a skill set for the office, interviews, networking and more. 

New Perspective 

Being able to connect with someone who has miles in your field allows you to gain a broader perspective on your industry’s practices. You gain insight on technology progressions, business mergers, job efficiencies, as well as new job opportunities. 

Accountability 

Laying out your personal goals with your mentor can motivate you to complete them since you have someone to report your progress to. Think of them as your career workout buddy. 

Support Group 

Mentors are people you can turn to for encouragement as well as someone that will celebrate your successes. They want the best for you and feel prideful when you’re excelling in your profession. You’re never alone. 

Personal Experience

Lessons are learned through mistakes and failed attempts. You will have plenty of these throughout your professional career, however, your mentor can share personal experiences they’ve had to help route your in the right direction. Wisdom comes with experience. Leverage the experience of others to help you navigate new territory and challenging career milestones. 

Focused on Work 

Outlining your job demands with your mentor can help you prioritize your tasks and see what you need to focus on. Getting an outside perspective on your workload can help identify areas of inefficiencies or a potential technology solution to lighten your workload. 

Mentorship is equally beneficial to the mentor. Providing guidance and advice is a gratifying feeling while making a difference in someone’s life. It provides you the opportunity to lend a helping hand, form a meaningful relationship, and keeps you honest in your area of practice.

Learning never ends.

7 Benefits of Having a Mentor infographic

5 Tips to Create an Impressive LinkedIn Profile (infographic)

LinkedIn is becoming an increasingly important tool to employers and professionals alike. It allows you to connect with people in your industry and grow your professional network.

Here are 5 tips to create an impressive LinkedIn profile that will help you get noticed by your colleagues and potential employers:

1. Share Relevant Content

LinkedIn is a great tool that helps you stay connected with your professional network, but just clicking the “connect” button isn’t enough. Sharing and commenting on content relevant to your position or industry helps engage your network and allows you to share your point of view on various topics.

TIP: You can follow hashtags on LinkedIn which can help you to stay on top of any news or trends in your industry. This way, you don’t have to search far to find shareable content.

2. Keep Work experience Current

When you are adding your previous work experience to your profile, it might make sense to include all of your past positions to show your various experiences.  However, outlining work experience relevant to your career path exclusively allows your audience to easily view your experience and see your relevant skillset.

3. Personalize your Headline

LinkedIn defaults your headline to only include your job title at your current position. Personalizing your headline lets you communicate with your audience and summarize your specialties. The use of keywords relevant to your position also helps your profile to be discovered easier in searches. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your headline to about 10 words.

4. Add a Professional Photo

Having a picture on your LinkedIn profile makes your profile up to 14 times more likely to be found, according to LinkedIn’s research. A neat-looking, professional headshot will help your profile look complete and professional. The recommended picture size for your profile picture is 400 x 400 pixels.

5. Create a Custom URL

When you make your LinkedIn profile, they assign a URL to your page that is typically a collection of numbers and letters. If you are putting your LinkedIn URL on your business card or sharing it with others, a customized URL can make it look neater and more professional. To take advantage of this feature, go under the Privacy section of Settings and click on the “Edit your Pubic Profile” option. Many people simply change the URL to their full name, if it is available.

References:

https://business.linkedin.com/en-uk/marketing-solutions/blog/posts/content-marketing/2017/17-steps-to-a-better-LinkedIn-profile-in-2017

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-create-killer-linkedin-profile-get-you-noticed-bernard-marr/

7 Advantages of Using a Staffing Company (INFOGRAPHIC)

Managing work fluctuations can be a challenging and expensive process. If your company is faced with a large influx of work, you have to spend time reading resumes, interviewing, and training new staff members. Enlisting the services of a staffing company can help relieve some of this work and can deliver already trained staff ready to work immediately.

Providing your business with qualified candidates is one of the many benefits that staffing companies can offer. Below, seven advantages of using a staffing company are outlined. Look over these advantages and see if a hiring company could benefit your company.

7 Must Know Legal Terms for LNC’s: Part I (Infographic)

Legal nurse consults (LNC’s) are registered nurses who use their education, experience, and specialized training to consult on medical issues in legal cases. A strong background in nursing allows them to bridge the gap between law and science.

Whether you’re new to the legal industry or a seasoned veteran, there are common terms that will frequent your vocabulary. Below is a list of the seven common legal terms. Use this infographic as a tool for yourself or for your clients and co-workers.

7 Legal Terms

4 Scary Interview Questions (Infographic)

Let’s face it, job interviews are scary. We’re nervous, usually out of practice, and the spot light is pointed on us. We want to impress our potential employer, but it is equally as important to be honest with ourselves in an interview. After all, it will be our job and responsibilities on the line. Take a look at these scary interview questions and how to respond.

Scary Interview Questions

Future Challenges in Recruitment for Legal and Medical Industries

Employment and recruitment challenges are on the horizon in the health care industry. Based on demographics, the workforce and retirement ratio will sky rocket in the next 5-10 years. Baby Boomers will begin retiring while Millennials will take over the majority of the workforce percentage.  In addition to demographic shifts, technological advances will continue to play a major role in affecting the workforce.

Yay for today!

Rapid advances in law, medicine and technology have revolutionized the legal and healthcare industries. As companies grow and adapt to these changes, the demand for qualified professionals has never been greater. Some corporations will need to reach out to staffing and recruitment agencies to assist in fulfilling their high demand for quick hiring to ensure quality candidates are selected to maintain a positive work environment and reputation as a  business.  Selecting, hiring and training the right employees can be challenging and costly, and the right employees can also be a critical component of business success.

All of us here at Advance Talent recognize these needs and are here to offer innovative workforce solutions to the legal and medical industries.

Visit our website for more information.