Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits: a preliminary report: (Reprinted from Br Med J 1954:ii;1451-5)

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 24 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1529

Rapid Response:

Medical English

Dear editor,

I greatly enjoyed reading Doll and Hill's paper from 1954 (four years
before I was born), and like you I found it easier to read than present-
day papers. You suggested that it was because it used the active voice and
used little jargon. I would go further and say that it used colloquial
English, and only the normal amount of Latin derived words. In those days
patients had operations, done by surgeons, who then put them on
antibiotics. Today they undergo surgical procedures, performed,
undertaken, or carried out by surgeons, who then commence them on
antibiotic medication. The three small red scars that resulted are now
scars, three in number, red in colour, and small in length.
To be fair, most medical journals' editors filter out this crap, but it is
perpetuated in outpatients letters and discharge summaries, no doubt to
medical secretaries' dismay.

Mark Heneghan,
Ty Henry Vaughan,
Bridge Street,
Powys, LD3 8AH

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 July 2004
Mark B J Heneghan
Brecon, LD3 8AH