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December 9, 1974

"A Word Fitly Spoken..."

JAMA. 1974;230(10):1436. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240100054032

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A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11). In medical writing as many physician-authors do it, the trouble with their vocabulary is that there are a lot of good words that seldom get used, some that are worked to death, some that are imprecise, and some that are dead wrong. The following are some examples.

A manuscript contained the words "exuberant growth" in describing metastases from a malignant neoplasm. A copy editor questioned the use of "exuberant" evidently because the word was unfamiliar to her. She did not recognize an elegant use of a word when she saw it.

Words that are used so often that they become trite seem to reach that stage because they are fashionable. "Document" and "documented" are representative. An author writes, "Clinical improvement was well documented on two occasions. Improvement in vital capacity was also documented." "Well-documented" might