Just say no to -nosis.

Illustration of just say no to -osis

Google “diagnosis and prognosis” and you’ll find a whole lot of sites telling you the difference between these 2 words. Why the confusion? It’s not that they’re so hard to understand — one is what you have, the other is how it will play out. But they’re words most of us only hear in a medical context.

And that context may be scary. When people get a serious medical diagnosis, their minds are reeling and they’re vulnerable to misunderstanding. It’s no time to ask them to parse medical speak.

We say: Let the people get back to Googling hedgehog videos! Avoid the diagnosis-prognosis confusion by skipping both words.

For diagnosis, use “found out” or “have.”

  • Instead of: He was diagnosed with conscious uncoupling disorder.
  • Try: He found out he has conscious uncoupling disorder.
  • Instead of: Your diagnosis is Kanye-itis. The world really does revolve around you!
  • Try: You definitely have Kanye-itis. The world really does revolve around you!

For prognosis, state things more directly.

  • Instead of: Here’s your prognosis for your conscious uncoupling disorder.
  • Try: Here’s what may happen next with your conscious uncoupling disorder.
  • Instead of: The prognosis for people with Kanye-itis is very good — you’ll probably live forever.
  • Try: The outlook for people with Kanye-itis is very good — you’ll probably live forever.

The bottom line: “Diagnosis” and “prognosis” confuse people, so skip ’em both. Get back to your plain language roots and swap in words people use every day.