People from all income and education levels are intimidated by poorly designed and ill-conceived forms and notices. In many other projects that we’ve undertaken over the years — from simplifying bankruptcy forms to tax forms, school enrollment forms, credit card statements, insurance applications, and program-related forms — the findings are consistent. The organizations may be different, but the problems remain the same.
When your doctor prescribes a medication for your child, do you know what the correct dosage is or how to measure it?
Are you comfortable asking your doctor questions when you receive a lab report and don’t understand the results?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you might have high health literacy, says Jodi Duckhorn, a social scientist and Director of Risk Communications at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Duckhorn’s team is responsible for making sure that messages FDA sends out are understandable to their intended target audiences—a key component of health literacy.
The Chicago Manual of Style does not like the pronoun “s/he,” and they don’t like “he or she” too much, either. They prefer constructions that are gender neutral. But for definitive guidance – and a few giggles – hear what the Baltimore Sun’s editor, John McIntyre, has to say on this topic.
What exactly is gobbledygook? The dictionary definition is “language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usually hard to understand.”
(Is it just me? Or is it ironic that a dictionary definition of gobbledygook includes an obscure 5-syllable word (circumlocution) that could just as easily have been “wordiness?” Just thinking…)
In the late 1990s my doctor suggested I head over to the local academic medical center where a research project was underway to discover the genes associated with my autoimmune condition. That’s when I came face-to-face with my first consent form and the inevitable tradeoff patients make when presented with pages of gobbledygook punctuated by a signature line: either sacrifice understanding in the name of contributing to the greater good, or politely decline.