Some features of good non-fiction writing include the following:
A strong article or book contains substantive material that readers can learn from or glean some valuable information from. Very good articles are those that readers consider worthy of saving or bookmarking for future reference.
No book or article can be relevant for every reader. Some topics have wide appeal and relevance (example, over-the counter-medications for the common cold) while others obviously have a small niche audience (vaccinations for adults traveling to southeastern Asia.) Your topic may have a small or wide audience, but it should be relevant to at least some readers.
A well-written article should demonstrate that the author is well informed about the topic, while maintaining a language and a level of detail that is appropriate for the target audience.
Most readers value authors who are qualified to write about the subject matter, which goes beyond self-taught familiarity with the subject. Qualification involves formal designation, while knowledge is about experience.
Not every person who is knowledgeable and qualified can write something interesting about the topic. But, being interesting isn't always important, depending on the purpose of the article. Some readers or publications prefer lists or charts that are full of accurate facts, some are looking for a reference piece, and some are looking for an interesting read with a thought-provoking, inspiring, or reassuring message. Tailoring how interesting your medical writing should be is about understanding your audience, and most importantly, the publisher's objective.
Depth, breadth, specific, detailed
Depth, breath and specifics also depend on knowing your audience. Some readers are looking for a wide range of information about a broad topic, without too much detail, while others are interested in understanding a topic in great depth. Most well written articles and books are content rich, but do not have to have the qualities of depth, breath, specifics and detail. Instead, the author and publisher select the purpose of the piece and stick with either depth or breadth, unless it is intended to be an encyclopedic reference source.
Most readers are looking for some form of insight. This means that the author provides additional information about the topic or a different interpretation of the subject matter, making the article or book more valuable.
Insight is a characteristic that is not judged uniformly by all readers. A reader considers an author who agrees with his or her own (the reader’s) overarching beliefs as insightful. When the author’s 'insight' is based on a different core viewpoint than that of the reader (example, vaccines are safe vs. vaccines are not safe) the reader is likely to dismiss the article, the author, and possibly the publication, even if the author is qualified and knowledgeable.
Most readers of health and medical articles are looking for something helpful. This could be simply to understand a health condition, to learn how to take a medication, or to know when a symptom is normal vs. worrisome.
Most readers are looking for information, knowledge or how-to that is easy to apply. This means that most readers cannot take on enormous, overarching, life changing plans and advice.
When it comes to health information, updated information is considered better than old information. When readers see health and wellness articles with well-established advice, most readers expect some type of acknowledgment from the author that, 'this has been the prevailing method for years, and new research continues to uphold this as the gold standard.'
Readers expect a genuine tone and voice from the writer, particularly from books and articles about health. An artificial or condescending or 'miracle cure' attitude is typically dismissed.
Honesty is highly valued, and your audience can easily perceive your level of honesty.
Articles that offend the reader are a huge turnoff. In fact, articles that insult anyone are generally regarded poorly, even if the target of the insult is very different from the reader.
Healthcare can be a highly political subject. Controversial topics can make for good writing, but a bitter or angry tone makes the author sound as if he has an agenda, which discredits the article as being not geared towards helping the reader.
Most of the time, the tone of a health, wellness or medical article should be pleasant- but not too casual to the point of not being authoritative or untrustworthy. Reference articles do not need to be friendly.
An easy way to bring a sense of balance to a health article is to share a few facts. Instead of saying, 'the vast majority of people who take medication Y do not experience side effects,' it is more balanced to say, 'of the 70,000 Americans who use medication Y, approximately 4.7% experience side effects.' This takes the appearance of bias out of the equation.
This is a tricky one. If you have a great sense of humor, you can try it. But humor in medical writing requires an exceptionally talented writer, and it doesn't usually work.
Well-structured material is critical. When it comes to writing health or scientific books and articles for the public, the science behind the content is so difficult for most people to comprehend that logical organization is the trick to making difficult material interesting and understandable.
Often, clarity is more important than attention-grabbing material. If you can be interesting and clear at the same time, then you will be able to keep readers engaged and informed.
If you can avoid repetition and get your point across briefly, readers are more apt to enjoy your material.
One of the ways that your audience shows appreciation and approval of what you have written is by sharing it with others. When a reader shares something that you wrote, this is a statement that he or she found your article useful and is comfortable being associated with it. This is a huge compliment to any author. It is impossible for any piece to have all of the qualities listed above, but if your writing has most of those qualities, it is more likely to be well received.
Find out more about how to get a job as a health and wellness writer here.