The Corruption of Medical Language


In this piece for The BMJ, Richard Smith emphasizes the need for clear, understandable academic writing that is accessible to general audiences.

“Almost everything, I believe, can be expressed in simple, clear language that everybody can understand, and authors often use complex language because they don’t fully understand what they are trying to say. ‘Good prose,’ said George Orwell, ‘is like a window pane’: you see straight through it to what the author is trying to say. I accept that there are ideas—as in theoretical physics—so complex that simple language will not suffice; but even with theoretical physics I think of the marvellous writing of Carlo Rovelli, who shows to everybody how theoretical physics has the magic of poetry. Of course, the language of theoretical physics is not words at all but mathematics—and few of us know enough maths to understand it.”

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