Next, write down everything you want to say. Then cut the verbiage and descriptions that are not needed to tell your story. Focus on two or three take-home points. Each fact included or statement made should help to guide the reader to these lessons. As readers and authors, we also like to see prevalence and incidence of disease findings, or how good a test is with specificity and sensitivity values. Make sure the readers know what you want them to learn.
Explore this issueNovember 2014
Keep the case concise, and focus on the discussion: The best write-ups keep the case description short and focused. Avoid trying to tell your readers everything about your case. Highlight what makes your case different without including extraneous information that does not support your teaching points. This leaves more room to focus on your discussion and explain to the reader the importance of your case. The discussion is where you create the “teachable moment” by elaborating on your teaching points.
Keep your drafts and proofread your work carefully: The process of writing a clear and concise vignette will take many drafts. To do a great job, plan for at least three or four versions. Through the process of revisiting every word you use, you will start to hone your mastery of the topic; you will see the case in a new way with each draft.
As you do this, keep each edit as a separate file. You will inevitably edit something out early on that you will want to put back in later. Keeping your drafts will make this much easier.
At the final version, proofread carefully! Most reviewers will deduct points for poor grammar and misspellings. If it looks sloppy, then a reader will assume it represents sloppy thoughts.
At grand rounds, the best speakers start with a case. These vignettes grab our attention, making us realize the importance of what the speaker teaches us.
Get feedback: Have others read your work. It is always hard to put your writing out there for critique, particularly when it is such a personal representation of your own clinical thought. Hopefully, you have collaborated with others involved in the case; however, to avoid any “group think” about the work, it is best to have uninvolved individuals (e.g., trusted faculty member, program director, division chief) review your work before submission. The point of these vignettes is to help you develop skills as an author and academician. Since most meetings do not provide any feedback on the review of your submission, outside of “accepted” or “rejected,” it is important to get this from your own institution. It will also heighten your chances of acceptance. Take their suggestions openly, and use them to refine your abstract.
Consider the following keys to a poster or oral presentation: The presentation at the meeting should be an expansion on the abstract. Remember, you have described the situation, but now you have the opportunity to use a picture. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words really rings true here.