Share An Opinion Or A Story: It's Your Turn

By John McCord, DPM

Jeff Hall, the Editor-In-Chief of this magazine, asked me to help edit this column a few years ago. It sounded like an easy task so I said yes. The deal was podiatrists would write the column and I would edit unless nobody sent editorials. In that case, I would do the writing. I added up the articles from the past three years and I’ve done most of the writing so it’s your turn. Writing didn’t come easy for me. I did poorly in my English classes all through school. I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of literary fiction. I lacked interest in creative writing and once handed in a short story on a paper towel. That was during my second year of junior English in high school. I got a D on the assignment but the teacher liked the story and kept the towel for 30 years to show students how to get a poor grade. He returned it to me when he retired. I was always sensitive about my poor writing skills so I took a few courses after I finished residency training. I learned to follow the rules. Elements of Style by Strunk and White has been my bible. I keep a copy of the tiny book at my writing desk. It keeps me centered when my instinct is to go wild when I write. Frank L. Visco created a list of 23 rules in a paper called How to Write Good. 1. Avoid alliteration, always. 2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with. 3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.) 4. Employ the vernacular. 5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc. 6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary. 7. It’s wrong to ever split an infinitive. 8. Contractions aren’t necessary. 9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos. 10. One should never generalize. 11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” 12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés. 13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous. 14. Profanity sucks. 15. Be more or less specific. 16. Understatement is always best. 17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. 18. One-word sentences? Eliminate. 19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake. 20. The passive voice is to be avoided. 21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms. 22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed. 23. Who needs rhetorical questions? I keep this list of rules right next to Elements of Style and self-edit before anything gets mailed or e-mailed. I would like to hear from any podiatrist or podiatric assistant who has a story to tell or an idea that would be of interest to the profession. I would also like to hear from the spouses and children of podiatrists. This column is limited to 750 words. The staff editors will chop out anything that exceeds the word limit. It is better for the author to stay concise. I like essays that are positive about our profession. There are other magazines that allow a forum for negative thinkers. Podiatry Today likes to focus on the upside of the profession and its people. Writing this column is like writing a letter to a podiatrist friend. There are some aspects of the topics that you can assume the readers know since they are mostly podiatrists. That leaves more space for ideas without all the details. Please think of a topic in podiatry that you care about and write me a letter. You can e-mail it to me at or send it to Associate Editor Brian McCurdy at This is not a writing contest and we’re not looking for flowery prose. We just want to hear what you are passionate about and what you care about in podiatry. It’s a real kick to leave copies of an article you have written laying in your waiting room. I have patients who ask to see the latest edition of this magazine every time they come to the office. They go straight to the Forum column. Let me hear from you soon. My goal is to read more and write less during the next year. You may find it helpful to review old issues of Podiatry Today to get a feel for our editorial needs. There are a few topics we would rather not hear about. If you hate your ex-partner, don’t tell us about it. If you think all of the insurance companies are just out to gouge us, we already know about it. If you wish you weren’t a podiatrist, quit. Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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