Quiz Yourself

There are 5 instances of jargon in the following sentence. Can you identify them all?

The patient’s physical exam findings were unremarkable and her labs were in the normal range, so she was released from the emergency room and prepped for surgery.

Highlight below for the answer:

The patient’s physical examination findings were unremarkable and her laboratory test results were in the reference range, so she was released from the emergency department and prepared for surgery.

Words and phrases that can be understood in conversation but are vague, confusing, or depersonalizing are generally inappropriate in formal scientific writing. See §11.4 of the AMA Manual of Style for a list of jargon.—Laura King, ELS

3 thoughts on “Quiz Yourself

  1. I would also suggest “discharged” rather than “released” from the emergency department – otherwise it sounds as though the patient was in prison rather than in hospital!

  2. Most of that is not jargon by most commonly understood definitions, see Webster’s (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jargon). “Exam,” for instance, is a perfectly comprehensible abbreviated form used by the general English-speaking population of the planet. “Normal range” is probably less confusing to most readers than “in the reference range” and is certainly not vague, confusing, or depersonalizing.

    Other than that it guarantees editors a niche of specialization, what is the justification for preventing people with a specialized expertise, at least in the context of articles aimed at readers with that same expertise, from using the specialized vocabulary and expressions that have developed to discuss that field. I often encounter phrases generated by editors closely hewing to AMA style that are unintelligible to physicians and other health professionals. Those phrases really *would* qualify as jargon!

    Of course we want to keep language intelligible to as broad a range of readers as possible, but it surely is possible to overdo it.

    • The issue with “normal range” is that it implies that results outside it are automatically abnormal. However, statistically speaking, only a certain percentage (usually 95%) of the “normal” population will have results within the range. The term “reference range” avoids this issue, so I’d rather use the more accurate term. Regarding “exam”, I suppose it depends what you are writing and how formal the writing style should be. Also, in the UK the abbreviation doesn’t tend to be used for a medical examination, only for the type of examination you’d sit to gain a qualification.

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