5 ways to humanize your writing

A medical writer advises how to generalize your language so that it’s compassionate yet comprehensible.

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More generally, I think “Avoid language that dehumanizes people” is great advice for any writer. Given our sense of urgency to get our messages out there (on social media, in press releases, and in blog posts) and our need to prove our worth to executives and clients, we often forget that we are writing for human beings.

Here are a few tips from the “AMA Manual of Style” to help you avoid writing that “de-humanizes.” Although the examples are taken from health care, they can be applied more broadly.

1. Avoid euphemisms. “Euphemisms are indirect terms to express something unpleasant. Although such language is often necessary in social situations, directness is better in scientific writing.” To paraphrase, directness is better in any kind of writing. Avoid “expired,” “passed away,” or “succumbed” when referring to a patient’s death.

3. Man or woman versus male or female. Because the terms “male” or “female” could be perceived as depersonalizing, a patient should be referred to as a man, woman, boy, or girl.

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