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February 25, 1998

‘Clear-ability' and Clarity in Medical Writing

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor


Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

JAMA. 1998;279(8):582-583. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-279-8-jbk0225

To the Editor.—Medical writing should be clear, simple, and unambiguous. In the article on aerosolized surfactant by Dr Anzueto and colleagues,1 I was distressed to see a new vocabulary formed by the addition of "-ility" to coin new words: transportability, spinnability, comparability, and clearability. In most cases, these shortcuts can be avoided by performing a literature search that will lead to an appropriate word or phrase that already exists. This article contains long words and phrases that may be considered "more scientific" but merely lead to vagueness, ambiguity, or nonsense. For example, "Cohesiveness is the thread-forming ability of mucus under the influence of large amplitude deformation," probably means, "Cohesiveness refers to mucus forming threads when mucus is stretched." This practice is clearly becoming more common in medical writing.

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