7 words (and more) you shouldn’t use in medical news

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  • Format Websites
  • Language/s English
  • Target Audience Self-directed learning
  • EBM Stage 3 - Appraising evidence
  • Duration <5 mins
  • Difficulty Introductory

Key Concepts addressed


When I was a young reporter in Milwaukee, comedian George Carlin was arrested for publicly performing what was then becoming a popular part of his routine – “the seven words you can’t say on television.” Carlin ridiculed network censors by expounding on the attributes of the seven words he claimed could not get on the airwaves.

Over a career (of now more than 40 years) in medical journalism and health care communications, I have developed my own list of taboo terms – all of which appear in print and on the public airwaves too frequently. I offer my own list of the seven words you shouldn’t use in medical news and health care communications.  I urge colleagues – both health care providers and professional communicators – to abandon their use for the sake of health consumers everywhere. I urge consumers of all health care information to be wary of these words because they mean different things to different audiences.

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