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February 25, 1998

‘Clear-ability' and Clarity in Medical Writing—Reply

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

In Reply.—Dr Kissoon reminds us that clarity in writing is critically important for effective communication. I too have lampooned the use of jargon in medical writing,1 and I appreciate his observations. It is important to clarify when a neologism is essential for clarity and when it obscures meaning. In our article on aerosolized surfactant, the terms mucociliary clearability and cough transportability mean something very different from mucociliary clearance and cough clearance. The former refers to a property of the secretion that is measured in vitro using expectorated sputum and provides us with specific information about a characteristic of the secretion. Mucociliary clearance and cough transport refer to the in vivo removal of tracer particles from the airway. This function tells us about the epithelium and secretory apparatus and not about the secretion. Thus, the terminology used clarifies what is being measured.

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