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November 5, 1973

Loaded Language and Drug Use

Author Affiliations

Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation Rochester, Minn

JAMA. 1973;226(6):660-661. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230060038011

One definition of rhetoric is "language designed to persuade or impress." Some authors of medical articles use this form of rhetoric in an effort to persuade readers to accept opinions about scientific issues. Realistically, of course, rhetoric cannot be eliminated entirely. But if authors and editors guard against it, its,use can be constricted markedly.

A writer's choice of words often reveals personal bias toward his subject, particularly when this subject evokes strong emotions. Because scientists generally agree that their observations and conclusions should be presented with as little emotional or moral bias as possible, rhetoric should be avoided in scientific writing. If it is not, and an author's biases are confirmed by his scientific results, the use of rhetoric can leave an unsuitably strong impression in the readers' minds. If, on the other hand, his biases tend to be undermined by his results, he may subtly and unconsciously disparage his