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August 7, 1967


JAMA. 1967;201(6):478-480. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130060152020

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How does "medical writing" differ from any other kind? A flippant and exaggerated answer comes immediately to mind: Medical writing is usually bad. Numberless critics, in pamphlets, articles, and books, have emphasized this defect, have bewailed the various repulsive qualities that characterize much medical writing—the monotony, the verbosity and jargon, the sheer clumsiness of expression, the lack of clarity. Of course, none of these is unique to physicians or to medicine, for in many other categories, particularly other branches of science, writing exhibits similar defects. But if we compare medical journals, as a class, with various literary periodicals as a class, the contrast appalls us.

Is such a comparison fair? I think it is. Presumably, anyone who writes has something to say, whether he be novelist, critic, historian, social scientist, or physician, whether he tells an entertaining story, reports a case history, describes an experiment, propounds a theory, recounts the