Miracles and paradigm shifts: Banned words

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Writer Carl Zimmer has posted an “Index of Banned Words” in science writing. Zimmer’s list grew out of one he compiled for his science writing class that has since been expanded by reader suggestions.

Some words and phrases that made the list:

  • Missing link
  • Seminal
  • Impact (verb)
  • Demographic leveling

Zimmer clarifies that he doesn’t mean these words should never be used but that writers need to learn to explain science in ways that people can understand:

What I mean is that anyone who wants to learn how to write about science, and to be read by people who aren’t being paid to read, should work hard to learn how to explain science in plain yet elegant English – not by relying on scientific jargon, code-words, or meaningless cliches.

So what words and phrases should be banned – or at least require some thought before using – in health journalism?

(Hat tip to NASW’s “On Science Blogs this Week“)

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