Grammar & Composition 101

I have read a number of first time reports sent to me for review by new LNCs. In the strictest sense, all of these reports were accurate representations of fact. In the literary sense, some were disasters.

When you compose a consultative report for an attorney, assume your reader is someone with no medical knowledge of the disease/injury/event/terminology. This is not true but it will help you write more clearly and avoid the use of medical abbreviations that are clear to healthcare personnel and no one else.

Many attorneys, particularly those who specialize in niche areas, are quite well informed about their client’s condition. Others make it their business to spend an inordinate amount of time researching the event around which their case revolves. Since most are quite bright, they can understand how a surgery should have proceeded, whether or not a delayed diagnosis made a difference in outcome or why the ER screening for pulmonary embolus might cause harm to a patient in the throes of pulmonary edema.

But no matter how well informed, they probably do not know why elevated BNP with CP radiating to the LUE might be a sign of STEMI. Nor should they have to. We walk the fine line between not talking down to our attorney while not assuming an unrealistic level of knowledge.

The point I am getting to (finally) is that no matter how skilled a nurse is in her medical charting, that skill does not enhance report composition and in fact, gets in the way of effective report writing. Your report may be the only contact some attorney clients ever have because they are out of state. I work with one attorney whose father was the editor for a national newspaper for 40 years. He avoided using LNCs “because they couldn’t write worth a damn” the few times he had worked with them. Regardless of their knowledge base, he could not respect professionals who had no knowledge of basic grammar and composition.

I’ll talk about how to let your fingers do the talking next week…and maybe the next few weeks after that…

2 responses to “Grammar & Composition 101

  1. Melissa Yeager

    I’m a new LNC, fresh off an internship. I never really considered my writing ability as a selling point – I guess I assumed some minimal level of proficiency. But when I think back to college, I was frequently used as a proof-reader, and I also remember thinking, “How on earth are you going to graduate?” as I read peoples’ work.

    Obviously as a newbie I don’t have a lot of work to submit as an example to a potential employer. How might I highlight writing as a strength?


  2. That is a good question, Melissa.

    I would say that everything you do in communication highlights your writing skills. The first and most influential example of this is email etiquette. You will find that many attorneys dash off quick email in incomplete sentences, sometimes because they are that busy, and other times (I suspect) because they want to appear that busy. This is never an option for consultants until you have known the recipient long enough to have a solid foundation with them.

    Otherwise, think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to present yourself, whether it is on your website, in a LinkedIn profile, or in an email to a prospective client. It is that initial communication that will open the door to an opportunity to actually write a report.

    CVs are another opportunity for proper formatting and style. Everyone has their own personality, but keeping it professional is always a safe path (I think, if you go back far enough, I have older posts on this).

    The single biggest improvement for me is to re-read, several times, what I am about to send. Sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts:-)

    Thank you for asking this question – blog fodder for next week, perhaps!


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