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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Writing leaves a legacy

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

typing on an antique typewriter

Why do we write?

As Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide becomes a reality – a tangible book that can be held in your hands, read, referenced, and applied – I reflect on my “why” for writing and serving as its editor.

It was to leave a legacy for my fellow nutrition professionals, those currently in the field, and all those yet to come.

Leaving a legacy is a primary reason to write anything, but especially books. Putting ideas into writing provides an inheritance of knowledge.

Writing as a form of communication is discussed in numerous places throughout the book, but two chapters in particular focus on writing.

Chapter 22 is titled, “Write to be Read, Understood, and Remembered,” and focuses on the characteristics of quality writing. I had the pleasure of being a coauthor of Chapter 22 along with Milton Stokes, PhD, MPH, RD, FAND.

Chapter 42 is titled, “Nutrition Communicators Write Books to Make a Difference,” and focuses specifically on book writing. Chapter 42 was authored by Roberta Duyff, MS, RDN, FAND, FADA.

At the time I was writing Chapter 22, I wrote a blog post with key ideas from that chapter. I will share an excerpt.

Characteristics of Quality Writing

Chapter 22 describes many characteristics of quality writing. Here are my top 3:

Write with the audience in mind

Effective writing makes the reader feel it was written just for them. To accomplish this, the nutrition communicator benefits from completing a needs assessment of their target audience. Equipped with the results, they can address their audience’s needs and concerns.

Audience-centered writing provides evidence pertinent to the target audience and uses illustrations they find meaningful. Find out what your audience cares about. Choose examples wisely. When writers identify what their audience wants and needs to know, they are able to write with the audience in mind.

Write with a clear focus

Quality writing is focused. The purpose and main idea are clearly stated. If you cannot convey your overriding message clearly and concisely, work on it until you can. Before you begin writing, know where you are going. Have a plan. Outline your writing.

The main, overriding message – your big idea – must stand out at the center of your writing. When someone reads what you write, they should quickly and easily be able to identify your main idea.

Focused and logical writing is evident from beginning to end. The main idea should be clear in the opening, supported throughout the body, and restated in the closing. Make it memorable and actionable.

Each paragraph ideally begins with a strong topic sentence that clearly states the main point of that paragraph. Each sentence that follows flows logically and supports the topic sentence by providing evidence, context, illustrations, or supporting examples. The paragraph ends with a summary statement or a suitable transition to the paragraph that follows.

Organize your writing around your key messages. Help the reader identify what these are with clear headings that help the key messages stand out from the text. Repeat key ideas and provide a summary list at the end.

Write in the modern style

The modern style of writing uses active voice. It is clear and concise. Vague or confusing language is avoided. The subject of the sentence is a person or a thing that is easily visualized rather than an abstract idea.

Active voice means that the subject does the action. Passive voice means the subject receives the action. Read these two examples:

A: The revision of the article will be completed by the intern.

B: The intern will revise the article.

Which one is clearer? B is written in the modern style and uses active voice. “Old” writing (A) uses passive voice and sounds wordy.

Modern writing is conversational, using common, everyday words. Unnecessary words are eliminated. Each word counts. Sentences vary in length and average about 15 words.

When writing for lay audiences, use contractions, personal pronouns, and words that elicit emotion. Be direct and include a call to action. Lastly, never accept your first draft as your final draft. Write. Review. Revise. Repeat.

When we write with our audience in mind, have a clear focus, and use active voice, we are writing to be remembered. What is quality writing to you? For more on writing well, check out these blog posts:

Learn more about the book, get free resources, and find links to order.

To close, I will share a quote from Chapter 42:

“I write to discover what I know.” ~ American writer Flannery O’Connor

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