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May 24, 1976

Medical Writing: Faults

JAMA. 1976;235(21):2327-2328. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260470045029

A search through medical indexes for information about writing yields an astounding abundance of articles, most of them by physicians who adjured their colleagues to gird up their grammar, straighten their syntax, and otherwise improve their prose. Results of such admonitions have been disappointing, to say the least. One explanation might be that few physicians enjoy financial profit from what they write. In fact, there is financial and temporal loss in preparing a manuscript and paying for and mailing out reprints. Why, therefore, should one expect their efforts to result in literary gems? One answer is immediately obvious: other physicians are expected to read and understand what is published in medical periodicals.

Michael Crichton is among the latest to venture finding faults in medical articles.1 Although he received a degree in medicine from Harvard, he does not practice medicine or contribute to technologic knowledge. Rather, he is a highly