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To the Editor:—
In scientific writing one enjoys the availability of words that express meaning and shades of meaning more exactly than in any other class of authorship. On the other hand, the very existence of such refinement of vocabulary carries a responsibility for the author to choose his words carefully in order that his exact intent of meaning is conveyed to the reader. Recent medical literature provides several examples of the misuse of the words toxicity, side-action, and idiosyncrasy. Such a misuse is unfortunate, particularly in the reporting of actions of new drugs, since an improper connotation is invariably conveyed when the wrong word is used. None of these words is synonymous with the others, and the use of toxicity and side-action is particularly confused in recent writing.Toxicity is intended to express the quality of being toxic; toxic, in turn, is synonymous with poisonous. A poison is a
Lee D. van Antwerp. MISUSE OF WORDS IN SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. JAMA. 1954;154(6):534. doi:10.1001/jama.1954.02940400072022