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November 7, 1977

Is the Message Clear?

JAMA. 1977;238(19):2015-2016. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280200027007

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To the Editor.—  In their letter to the editor, "Syrup of Ipecac: The Poison Retriever" (238:399, 1977), Greensher and Mofenson claim, "Identifying ipecac syrup as 'the poison retriever' in advertising and education campaigns should avoid its confusion with other dangerous products and lead to its greater availability." Though their attempt to educate is laudable, I believe that their solution fails to communicate to the intended audience.Educational research indicates that many Americans do not understand the written materials they come in contact with daily. For this reason, many industries have begun to rewrite their consumer literature so that it will be more readable for the general public.Unfortunately, what specialists in a given field consider more readable language often fails to meet the reading requirements of the general public. The phrase "poison retriever" on a bottle may confuse more people than it educates. A reader may infer that the contents