Sue Daly is the owner of The Bangalow Naturopath, an alternative Medical practice based in the Byron Shire. I recently had the opportunity to speak with her about the importance of good writing skills, the writing challenges she faces and the significance these skills have on her day-to-day work in the medical field.
Writing is an integral aspect of Sue’s work. She writes monthly articles for a local newspaper on managing ones health as well as writing daily posts on social media sites. As a medical professional one of the main challenges she faces in her writing is ensuring the language she uses is relevant to a mass audience.
Sue is passionate about empowering people to understand and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Her regular articles detail health suggestions for common allergies or infections, allowing her to give back to the local community. Sue is accustomed to complex medical jargon, but is aware her audience isn’t. Providing relevant advice for the community can be the most difficult writing she does. “I have to be careful not to be too technical and to re- hash articles people have already heard about. I need to be fresh, informative and entertaining,” she says. “I am limited to a 500 word article and it is sometimes difficult to do justice to a topic in that small amount of space.”Maintaining a clear dialogue is essential to gaining support from readers. Without this skill her articles wouldn’t appeal to the wider community to whom she targets her pieces.
Timing is another important aspect of her writing. Sue says she “needs to be conscious of the timing in which a particular piece is written.” By writing articles that are relevant to a season, she appeals to a wide audience and increases the chance of her work being received and appreciated. She focuses her medical advice on cold and flu symptoms during the colder months of the year, and then changes to topics such as hay fever and allergy prevention that are relevant to the change of season.
Sue began her career as a high school teacher, specializing in English and History. After the birth of her first daughter, who suffered from lactose allergies, she became intrigued in natural medicine and alternative therapies to treat her daughter’s symptoms. This motivated her to pursue a career in Naturopathy and return to her studies.
Sue believes her university degree prepared her adequately for workplace writing and has helped her enormously in her ability to analyse and apply critical thinking. “The majority of my assignments involved writing in various forms and styles. The employment of critical thinking, analysis and evaluation were certainly part of this and has helped me write with purpose,” she says. While her career change presented many challenges, she credits her writing abilities to her teaching past and has adapted her skills to write for her profession today.
Sue is driven by a social responsibility to write articles that accurately inform and educate the public. “There are a lot of mistruths and miscommunication regarding natural therapies. Naturopathy is often undermined and criticized by other medical professions and uneducated masses who do not give it the credit it deserves” she says. For this reason, a common challenge she faces as a writer is ensuring information is validated by scientific evidence and research. She is also careful of what recommendations she makes to clients and encourages them to not self diagnose.
As well as writing health articles for the local newspaper, Sue does a lot of writing in her medical clinic. Written communication with clients is a significant part of her work. She has clients all over Australia which requires her to write up treatment plans to send via email to patients that cannot get to her clinic for over the counter advice.
Social media has allowed Sue to expand her business significantly. With the abundance of social media sites now available, she says “it is important to keep up with emerging trends and ensure audiences are targeted though appropriate channels.” When there are new sites, it is important to ensure she is visible online and is reachable via the same medium as her audience.
Sue’s online presence has developed significantly over the last two years, with social media sites now one of the main channels she uses to connect with clients. She spoke about the importance of maintaining a high standard of writing on these sites, as slang and other jargon can appear as unprofessional. “Writing for social media has become the most important form of writing I do now. It allows me to post small articles on relevant subjects and make comments on other peoples ideas.” She says. “It has given me a professional platform for my services and products, so the use of good clear writing is imperative in maintaining credibility and professionalism.”
Sue loves writing about controversial topics and feels it is the most interesting writing she does. “I love writing about controversial subjects, especially where there is an opportunity for interaction with other people who can freely express their own opinions.” she says. Social media provides a dynamic platform to discuss such topics and it is this two-way communication that is so valuable. “Having an online presence enables me to discuss contentious issues or treatments with others and often expands my view on particular topics.”
Sue doesn’t see writing as a chore but as an integral part of her work. “I love to write. It’s a useful tool that helps me collect my thoughts on a subject and also allows me to deepen my research” she says. She finds condensing information a difficult part of her writing process. “I seem to collect too much detail, facts and opinions at the start, and then have to really pick out the most relevant aspects of what I want to write about.”
The editing process is just as important as the writing. “It is crucial to proof-read your work. Writers should always edit their work – it is the key difference between a rough script a professional finished product.”