Writing Styles – Let’s hear it for.....the Tuatara

2 min read
First Published: 
Feb 2013

Key Learnings contained in this article:

Those of you know me well (including those who wish they didn’t) will know that my heart and roots belong in New Zealand. Fortified by a large quantity of excellent Sauvignon Blanc from that distant shore, naturally the next zoo creature that personified a medical writing style (or lack thereof) had to fit in with the theme of the evening (I think we were performing the haka on the dining table at the time, but can’t quite recall)…

Seriously though – for those of you who are not familiar with the Tuatara, it is an ancient-looking creature, with strong genetic links to dinosaurs. It barely moves, looks like part of the landscape, and has an unusually low body temperature – you’re already starting to get the picture, aren’t you.

You may know both clients and reviewers like this as well (of course, we don’t have them among our clients, but we’ve heard of them from our wide experience in the healthcare industry). This medical writing style is barely a style at all – mainly because the manuscript rarely gets finished! This is the person who is convinced that every word is precious and life-changing, and thus requires a long period of pondering before it can be committed to paper. Unfortunately, they think so long their manuscript is likely to be mislaid under a layer of coffee cups, fast-food wrappers and cobwebs. And unread requests for it from colleagues and line managers.

The Tuatara reviewer contemplates a manuscript for 9 months, makes 3 minor edits and then returns it. In the meantime, the introduction, discussion and indeed the research have become so far out of date that they have to be completely rewritten, and thus go through the whole laborious process again. Often the paper is shelved unpublished, because the research is no longer relevant.


Writing motivation: My work is so important it requires a great deal of consideration at every step. No matter how small.

Means of expression: Two words a day. Or a week.

The Solution: Try removing all food and drink from the tuatara reviewer until you get a result. If this doesn’t work, remove the oxygen.Large bribes or incentives might help with the tuatara writer, but cattle prods or horsewhips are generally more cost-effective.If you recognise the tuatara in yourself, get a good book on goal-setting and set yourself deadlines. Lots of them.

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Ruth Whittington
CEO of Rx Values Group Ltd
MSc(hons), NZSRN
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