What is Clinical Writing and How to Avoid It

Clinical writing is a reference to the tone of the content you develop. It’s usually more information-based while being void of emotional connection. For myself, this is habit that has been difficult to break. I want to give out valuable information, but not everyone wants to read a manual. In fact, writing in a clinical tone has caused me to lose a few clients. Although you want to give out the best information possible, you need to add a more “human” element to your content in some cases.




How Clinical Writing Affects the Reader

A lot of the work I do online is for blogs. In most cases, these blogs are meant to be informative as well as engaging. When I first started writing professionally, I was basing every piece of content purely on strict information. While it did well for things like manuals, how-tos and product descriptions, many clients wanted more “life” to the material. This is what I’ve learned since 2012.

Blogging Practices
Most blogging sites want something that is both informative and emotionally engaging. Clients want content that will keep the reader coming back for more. If the writing style is too clinical, it makes the content look more like a textbook than a blog. A lot clients will frown on this practice as it will be harder to engage the target audience. Let’s face it, very few people would prefer reading a textbook because of the lack of emotion. This could be one of the most difficult things to learn.

Lost in Jargon
Clinical writing is usually surrounded by language that goes beyond the average Internet user. According to studies, a seventh-grade reading level is the most ideal for engaging a target audience. This means you’ll need to make your content much easier to read. Unless you’re focusing the content on higher education, it may be easy for the average Joe to get lost in the jargon of your content. I’m not saying that everyone on the Internet is illiterate. But changing words to make them easier to read can make a profound difference when engaging your visitors.

How to Avoid Clinical Writing

Getting away from clinical writing can be a difficult process. At least, it was for me. I had to learn how to use shorter sentences and easier words in order to make the clients happy. Luckily, I have tools like Yoast SEO on this website to determine the readability of my content. You might not have such tools, though. Here are a few things you can try to help reformat your style of writing.

Adding the Human Element
Being more human in your writing can be done in a variety of ways. You want to be more conversational while incorporating more first and second-person type of material. Question and answers, personal views of the topic and more can be added to give your content more of a human feeling. When you’re editing your work, read it out to yourself. Does it sound like something you would say in real life? It may sound silly, but it’s actually a great way to gauge whether or not your pushing clinical writing.

Be Playful
In some instances, you want to write in a playful manner. I try to add a bit of humor now and then depending on the topic and the client. You don’t want to go too far to where the content is filled with “fluff.” However, adding a bit of humorous insight can easily resonate within your target audience. For example, one of my favorite articles for a client was based on the realism of why a zombie apocalypse can never happen. I took a scientific standpoint while adding a playful tone to the piece. It was for a Halloween article a couple of years ago for a client and turned out to be a sensation.

Understand Your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience will help you determine if clinical writing is justified or not. For instance, it’s difficult for me not to be overly factual because of the nature of this website. I want to deliver the best information I can, but I don’t want to lose your attention. Here are a few ways you can determine how your visitors are affected by your content:

  • Google Analytics: Watching how people behave on your site and what pages have been the most popular can help you determine future content.
  • Heatmapping: Heatmapping tools will show you if visitors are scrolling through your content or getting lost in the words. There are a tone of free heatmapping services on the Internet. I use Mouseflow for WordPress.
  • Monitor Your Readability Score: The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Score can be helpful when determining if your content is too difficult to read. A free tool to use is at the Readability-Score.com website. The higher the number, the easier it is to read.
  • Explore Competing Websites: There is nothing wrong with getting ideas from your competition. Find those who write the same kind of content as yourself and see how it’s developed. Don’t copy their content, but use it as a way to gauge how your material is created.

Clinical writing has it’s place in the world. In reality, the style of content you produce will be dictated to what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s possible to add more emotion to writing, but only if the topic warrants it. If you’re accused of clinical writing like I have been, perhaps you should take a closer look at your sentence structure and wording. You may be surprised by how often long sentences and big words can directly affect how one reads the content.

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Michael

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 5,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel.

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