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Writing is an essential communication skill: let's start teaching it
  1. Fiona Moss
  1. Correspondence to Dr Fiona Moss, Editor-in-Chief, Postgraduate Medical Journal, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK; pmj{at}

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It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way. - Ernest Hemingway

Everyone knows that good communication skills are crucial for the delivery of high quality patient care. Breakdown in communication between patient and professional is a frequent element of those episodes of care that result in disaster.1 Although not formally taught as an explicit specific set of skills until the latter part of the 20th century, communication skills are now included in all undergraduate and many postgraduate health care training programmes. Such teaching is mostly concerned with the skills need to listen to and talk with patients: to help them articulate what is wrong and explain what might be the cause; to express what is troubling them and to help them make informed decisions. In simulated teaching, the interactions between health care professionals—what they say and how they say it—receive the attention of those observing how a team works as a unit. But very few health professionals are taught how to write, though a paper in this issue of PMJ suggests that they can be.2

Clear and accurate writing is also important for good patient care. Writing that lacks clarity, is ambiguous, or is simply unfathomable can also hinder important communication within teams …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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