20 New Writing Rules for Healthcare Content Marketing
Updated: Aug 9
Reading time: 4 minutes
I before e, except after c.
Always capitalize proper nouns.
Never end a sentence with a preposition.
As a healthcare content writer, you learned these writing rules long ago in grade school, and you still abide by them to this day (well, maybe not always that last one). But not all grammar and writing rules are as steadfast; some have evolved along with technology and the changing times. Still, that doesn’t mean the writing world is lawless. Here are 20 new writing rules for healthcare content marketing.
Be succinct. Yes, even more so. If you need a line break in a Facebook post, more than two commas in a tweet or more than a sentence or two in an Instagram post, you’re writing too much. Pare it back and then link to a blog post if you have more to say.
Leave text speak to your social life. Only brands that solely market to kids or teens, should use such abbreviations as u, thx and idk. Even if your hospital has a prominent pediatrics department, your audience is parents. You represent one of the most respected professions on earth. Keep it professional.
Write to an eighth-grade reading level. OK, this one isn’t new, but it’s worth a reminder. Always run your copy through a reading-level analyzer before disseminating. Consumer-facing content should be at an eighth-grade level or below. (Hint: URLs, social handles, phone numbers and the like will artificially inflate your result, so don’t include these when you run your analyses.)
Quit it with the jargon. Yes, Dr. Smith, we know “myocardial infarction” is the proper term, but we’re speaking to regular people (and at an eighth-grade reading level at that). Don’t be afraid to push back on the medical jargon. Always begin interviews with a preamble about who your audience is, and begin questions with, “In laymen’s terms…”
Be consistent. If you don’t have a style guide by now, you need to create one ASAP.
Choose meaningful hashtags. While you may question the relevancy of hashtags these days, they’re still useful for engagement. But use them strategically. One or two tactical hashtags will perform better without cluttering up your posts than a ton of generic ones.
Be professionally informal. Content marketing doth not require the King’s English. Know what we’re saying?
But use real words. Skip overly casual spellings, such as “gonna,” “shoulda” and “hafta.”
And be specific. Try not to use words like “things” and “stuff.”
Speak directly to your audience. Go ahead and write in first and second person when it suits, especially when offering advice. People prefer this more familiar tone than the formal third person. And, yes, use “you” even when you’re speaking to physicians. After all, they’re people, too!
Be detailed. You don’t need to remind people to eat right and exercise. Offer advice on how to do it.
Use a thesaurus. If everything is amazing, then nothing is.
Write long. Don’t assume just because a piece of content is online it has to be short. Plenty of readers are looking for more detailed information, particularly when it comes to their health. Changes in search also reward longer posts that answer related questions.
But also short. Don’t think writing long means you should publish dense paragraphs of copy. Break up webpages with lots of subheads and links, so readers can easily navigate the information. Content hubs that answer FAQs are a great way to cover in-depth topics in bite-sized portions. Plus, they’re perfect for semantic search.
Tell people how long it will take to read your content. It’s easy with a words-per-minute calculator.
Vary your word choices. No one likes to read the same words and phrases over and over again. If your page is on cancer, mix up the text by using “the disease,” “tumor” or “lesion” occasionally instead. Don’t worry about getting docked in your search rankings. Google is beginning to understand context, and it frowns on keyword stuffing.
Read and reread before you post! Better yet, have someone else read it too. Typos and other errors can erode your reputation.
Entice readers with attention-getting headlines. Asking a question or promising X number of ways to do something are still popular for a reason.
But don’t toil with click-bait tactics. They’re unprofessional and they only serve to frustrate readers. The medical profession is sensational as it is. There’s no need to try and trick people into reading your content.
Make it useful. Always create content for your audience rather than a search engine. Give readers what they want, and rankings will follow.