Don’t Make Contraception Scary: Use Familiar Terms

Alt: A doodle enters a pharmacy with a prescription in hand. She says to the pharmacist, “Salutations, fellow humanoid! Prithee some contraception per mine prescription?” The pharmacist responds, “Why yes, certainly! I fetched it from yonder apothecary for thee!” At the bottom of the page is an asterisk with the clarification, “Not how people talk.”

Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we work hard to eliminate big, scary words from health writing. So today, we’re urging you to take the word “contraception” out of your content-writing vocabulary. Why? Because there’s almost always a more conversational or descriptive term you can use.

Before you use the word “contraception,” ask yourself how often you hear people say the following things:

  • “I’d like a prescription for contraception.”
  • “I’m going to the pharmacy to pick up my contraception.”
  • “Oh no, I’m out of contraception!”
  • “I’m trying to get pregnant, so I’ve stopped taking my contraception.”

See, dear readers? Most people just don’t use the word “contraception” in everyday speech. So when you write about this topic, it’s better to use the terms that your audience would, like:

  • Birth control pills
  • IUDs
  • Condoms

If you’re talking about contraception, you may be promoting or describing certain methods, like the ones listed above. But if you’re talking about it in general, just say “birth control.”

In any case, be sure you know your audience, understand what they’re looking for, and use terms they’re familiar with. When your readers are comfortable with the words you’re using and can easily understand the information, they’re better able to make positive health decisions.

The bottom line: “Contraception” is a big, unwelcoming word — so use terms that are more descriptive or conversational instead.

Tweet about it: Swapping the word “contraception” for simpler, more familiar terms is important for #HealthLit, says @CommunicateHlth:


Browse recent posts

Do you heart health literacy? We sure do! Sign up to get practical health literacy tips and tricks — delivered to your inbox every week.