The importance of reading and writing English
Medical education in the United States, compared to that of other countries, is lengthier for various reasons. Like so many of you, throughout high school I struggled with English courses. My sentence construction was mediocre, in due part to lack of exposure to diverse texts and reading materials. The following tips of knowledge are exercises an English professor taught me that drastically improved the quality of my prose.
1) Proofreading is best done out loud. Proofreading is essential. At times the written word will be your only method of communication between you and another party. It is easy to pass judgement based on how you communicate. Whether an email or a graded essay, proofread and re-read out loud. The average person reads faster silently. Reading out loud engages a different area of your brain and enhances your listening skills. You will see that this exercise is time consuming, but very effective especially for those that have little experience with proofreading.
2) Write simplistically and read arrogantly. Ideas flow easier when said simplistically. This process, also called rough drafting, can be time consuming, but writing your ideas and expanding on them makes the task of developing an essay easier. Note: Ideas should always be expressed in complete sentences. When done writing your ideas take a break, and then re-vist your draft. Be a tough critic. Does: your draft sound simplistic, are ideas fully developed, are the transitions smooth, is your idea conveyed efficiently? Analyzing your work tough, but it is the only way to improve.
3) Diversify! Smaller sentences spice expression. There is no need for huge sentences that take the breath away from the reader.
4) Imitate others methods of writing. Much of what we do, or how we act, is an acquired trait learned through mimicry. Learn to copy others form of writing, as this will help you grow as a writer. My favorite Chicano authors, often mix a word or two of Spanish here or there. In personal essays, I tend to do this frequency, as it gives the essay a little bit of savorcito, because for us Latinos everything is better with spice!
Writing is essential, but reading is fundamental! As a student, I seldom read for pleasure. Reading; however, has saved my butt a few times. As a medical student, you want to avoid being as cliche as possible. In an interview for a fellowship, an interviewer once asked me about my favorite book. These type of questions are popular, as they give insight into the candidate’s frame of mind. Similarly, as a medical student I have often found myself discussing politics, literature or analyzing films with attending physicians. Our conversations get interesting at times, but they enjoy and are stimulated by the quality and depth. Trust me, talking about surgery or the next patient can get kind of boring, quickly! It is good to have those additional tools under your belt because these are conversation starters. They portray you as a diverse individual and some attending physicians enjoy that interaction. For example, in a few months I will be doing an elective rotation with an oncologist that I met while discussing “Life of Pi” and the magical realism of elements found throughout the book — very classic of Latin American literature.
Take home point: Take your English courses as a method to improve yourself and expand your breath of knowledge. These courses are helpful as they will portray you in a better light. I have experienced that some individuals love mocking bad grammar, while others, especially physicians, enjoy the diversity that literature can provide.