Guide to medical syntax

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Many words that are used interchangeably in common language take on different meanings when used in the context of medicine. This guide serves to highlight words that are commonly found on WikiDoc to be used incorrectly and to provide more appropriate alternatives. Like all aspects of WikiDoc, this page should be updated as more examples are found.

Words Mistakenly Interchanged

Incidence vs. Prevalence

Both incidence and prevalence are often used to mean the same thing in common language. In medicine, however, they have two distinct meanings. The definition of each term, as well as an example of each, is provided below.

Term Definition Example
Incidence The rate of occurrence or influence. Especially, the rate of occurrence of new cases of a particular disease in a population being studied New cases of Disease X are becoming less common among people over the age of 80 with an incidence of 1000 cases per year in the United States.
Prevalence The percentage of a population that is affected with a particular disease at a given time Disease X still affects a large portion of the population over the age of 80, being prevalent in 13% of this population.

Trial vs. Study

Use of the word trial versus study / analysis: Results of randomized observations can be referred to as a “trial”. Results of non-randomized observations should be referred to as studies or analyses.

Term Definition Example
Study A careful examination or analysis of a phenomenon, development, or question. A recent study examined the association between patients taking multivitamins and cardiovascular risk.
Trial A study in which the subjects are randomly distributed into groups which are either subjected to the experimental procedure (as use of a drug) or which serve as controls In a recent trial, patients randomized to receive Drug X in addition to standard of care showed a significant decrease in recovery time for total knee replacement surgery.

Words to Find and Replace

Do Not Use Do Use Notes
Predictor Associated With or A Correlate of The term "predictor" should only be used when there is a validation cohort and the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value are also presented.
Like Such as Like sound like you are like a valley girl
Most The majority of Most is too conversational and informal
Most patients The majority of patients
Any word that implies causality, such as impacted, influenced or caused Associated with Often there is only data to support a correlation between two phenomena. However, correlation does not imply causation. The language we use on WikiDoc should not falsely present the research of others.
After Following
Given, used or received Administered
In Among
In patients Among patients
Seen Observed
Shown Demonstrated
Felt to be Hypothesized or speculated to be
Thrombolytic Fibrinolytic Do not use the wording, "following fibrinolysis," as fibrinolysis implies successful clot resolution. Instead, use the wording, "following fribinolytic administration."
Overall death All cause mortality
Understand Evaluate
Best Optimal
More Greater
Many Numerous
People Individuals
About Approximately
About the Regarding the
Less patients Fewer patients
Less than Fewer than
Reveals Demonstrates
Done Performed When discussing a procedure

General Instructions

  • If English is not your first language, have a native writer review your content after it is created.
  • Do not end sentences with the word "with" or adverbs.
  • Minimize the use a conversational tone with words ending in "ing" (passive tense).

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