As you know, we have a long history at We ❤️ Health Literacy HQ of calling out jargon terms and advocating for simpler alternatives. Over the years, we’ve covered everything from technical medical terms like “hypertension” to public health mainstays like “morbidity and mortality” to sneakily tricky words like “detect.”
This week, we’re keeping it simple (our fave!) and presenting you with 3 verbs you can cut from your plain language vocabulary once and for all. They’re all common in health comm, and they all have one-to-one swaps — which means you really never need to use them. Thrilling, isn’t it? We hope you enjoy!
First up, we have “administer.” This one pops up in vaccine communication all the time, but we think it’s about time for that to stop. Why? Because consumers just don’t need to hear it when you can use the much shorter and simpler “give” instead.
- Out: Doctors have administered about a million doses of the vaccine.
- In: Doctors have given about a million doses of the vaccine.
Moving right along, let’s talk about “ensure” for a moment, shall we? Now, “ensure” might seem like a pretty plain language term. But readers with limited literacy or health literacy skills may confuse it with something related to health insurance (or a nutrient-boosting beverage option!), so why risk it? We say just use “make sure.”
- Out: Read the instructions carefully to ensure you understand how to take the medicine.
- In: Read the instructions carefully to make sure you understand how to take the medicine.
And we’ve saved the best (or our least favorite?) for last: good old “utilize.” And frankly, dear readers, we’d suggest dropping this one from your vocabulary entirely — not just from your plain language health content. It just seems so unnecessary when you consider that “use” does the exact same job — with a third of the syllables!
- Out: The doctor may utilize blood tests to make a diagnosis.
- [Do we even have to write it?!]
The bottom line: “Administer,” “ensure,” and “utilize” have no place in your plain language health content — they’re just too easy to swap out!
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