How to write an article in half an hour

Writing an article a day in your spare time is quite a challenge. Writing 400 words in half an hour is even more of one. That’s a word every 4...
St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

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Writing an article a day in your spare time is quite a challenge. Writing 400 words in half an hour is even more of one. That’s a word every 4 seconds or so. It doesn’t give you much time to think in between.

Therefore, you must start with something you already know well. Forget about looking anything up, even spelling. Use words you don’t have to check in the dictionary, unless your computer is doing spell-check for you.

Get a brief outline in your head to start with, but don’t take more than a minute or two to think it out. As a physician, I write many articles about common health problems, those that I see every day. Writing an article is a lot like seeing a patient. First I determine what the purpose of the visit is. Then I take a more complete history. This is followed by a physical exam, after which we discuss a course of action.

To write an article, first clarify your topic or the question you’re aiming to answer. Consider re-stating the question or goal in two or three ways, or identify one or two secondary questions. You may want to mention your experience and why you are a good candidate for answering the question in the first place.

Next, describe the problem further. What sort of issues have other people encountered? What benefit will your reader derive from finding an answer? What solutions have been offered by other experts, and what are the pros and cons of each?

In the following paragraph describe your answer to the problem as briefly and accurately as possible. Don’t use fancy words – just aim for clarity. Medical literature for patients is written at the 5th to 10th grade level. Your goal is for people to understand, not to think you’re a genius. People are looking for what’s in it for them, not how talented you may be.

Compare your solution to others that you’ve already mentioned, or describe them here. Explain why your answer is superior. Focus on the benefits, but don’t fail to mention potential drawbacks. People want to know the good, but they don’t want to be surprised with problems they should have been warned about.

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

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Finally, a summary paragraph will reaffirm what you’ve already said, but in just a few sentences. In 400 words you can’t make more than one major point, two at most. Focus on the single idea you want your reader to remember. 

Time’s up. I wrote this article in 20 minutes and used 450 words. It helps to type fast! In summation: write about what you know well, write in simple terms, and aim to convey only one major idea. That’s it. Good luck!

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.

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