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Reduction of Medical Verbiage: Fewer Words, More Meaning

Anthony E. Voytovich, MD
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University of Connecticut School of Medicine; Farmington, CT 06030-1905 (Voytovich)

Requests for Reprints: Anthony E. Voytovich, MD, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-1905; e-mail, voytovich@nso1.uchc.edu.

Ann Intern Med. 1999;131(2):146-147. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-131-2-199907200-00013
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Air traffic controllers and military personnel use an utterly unambiguous but limited vocabulary in their moment-to-moment operations. Physicians rely heavily upon a much larger, less precise terminology, much of it based in tradition and habit. In an earlier issue, Donnelly (1) reminded us of the repetitive and nonreflective use of rhetorical devices that reveal our biases about the reliability of data sources. Whereas the patient “says,” “reports,” “claims,” or “denies,” the physician “notes,” “observes,” and “finds.” Laboratory and imaging studies “show” and “reveal.”

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