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Sept 4, 1967


Author Affiliations

From the Scientific Publications Division, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1967;201(10):765-766. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130100063017

When a subject seems difficult to understand, perhaps the fault lies not in the subject itself but in the mode of expression. Let us consider the following sentence.

The seminal cytology in man in the presence of a patent duct system is an accurate reflection of the normal morphologic function of the germinal epithelium and a most sensitive indicator of changes in that function.

If, in a single word, we try to characterize a sentence such as this, we might come up with an epithet such as "obscure," or perhaps "dull." Certainly, the sentence is thoroughly ungraceful, does not attract the reader, and represents a fine example of how not to write.

If we analyze the faults, we see first of all that the sentence is long, with 36 words. It is a simple sentence with a subject, "cytology," and a verb, "is." If we count up the number of