1. Olson, DaiWai M. Editor

Article Content

I suspect that every profession uses jargon. Moreover, I suspect that many subspecialties have jargon that is unique to their particular patient population. There are certain jargons that are more or less obvious to most medical professionals. Words such as "crumping" and "crashing" take on special meanings within intensive care units. The phrases "we're backed up" and "the clinic is swamped" are more likely to be heard in outpatient clinics. Whereas "frequent flier" or "positive suitcase syndrome" may be heard in an emergency department. We all use jargon, and although that is perfectly reasonable in the clinical arena, jargon presents a special problem in scientific publication.

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Language is a living phenomenon. Different words come into fashion and out of fashion over time. This happens more rapidly for the spoken word than the written word. The manner in which you communicate with your colleagues today is likely to evolve. Few, if any, nurses today would say that they are going to give their patient a "hypodermic." Now that we no longer have to walk outside to use the bathroom, few nurses would ask patients about their "daily constitutional." Alternatively, a nurse from 50 years ago would have no idea what it means to "text the charge nurse." The circumstances surrounding healthcare are demanding and ever changing, and our language changes to meet the demand.


On occasion, jargon stands the test of time. Code Blue is nearly synonymous with cardiac arrest. This term originated as jargon to describe the patient's skin color. Likely because we now have Code Red, Code Black, Code Pink, and the occasional "code brown," the origins for "code blue" have been lost to time and replaced with tight definitions in policies, protocols, and guidelines. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to predict which terms are sticky enough to stand the test of time. Therefore, scientific writing benefits from avoiding jargon.


The author must write using terms that are already clearly defined and use these terms in the manner in which they are currently accepted. Avoiding jargon reduces the chance that the reader will mistake your intentions. In the 1980s, "shock blocks" were considered essential equipment in most critical care units. Most of today's readers would be justifiably confused to read that the patient was unresponsive despite "being wide open with shock blocks" (Trendelenburg positioning with intravenous fluid bolus). Sometimes, jargon is hard to identify and avoid. As an editor, I realize that it is difficult to describe how a seasoned nurse was able to encourage a physician to become more involved with the nursing staff by leveraging social media to alert the physician that there was a team event. However, "I poked him on FB" is unlikely to stand the test of time.


Given that we are all living through roughly the same time, the problem is not that how we speak with each other changes over time. The problem is that scientific writing is a way of communicating to the future. The problem is that people in the future may not understand what it means to "page the H.O." Nobody is perfect. As you read through the articles in this issue, try to spot jargon. The "rule of thumb" (jargon that originated before rulers were commonplace) is that, if you are not certain whether or not a term is jargon, then it is probably jargon.


Before you get all hot and bothered, cool your jets and don't freak out. This kid is wicked groovy with jargon. So don't get all bent, I dig it, hear me? But, you gotta stay straight with the man or your article sounds like jive. When you type up your heavy news, do me solid; fly right with your funky juice and avoid jargon.


The Editor declares no conflicts of interest.

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