Spread the Word: Skip “Transmit”

CommunicateHealth
Nov 9, 2017 · 1 min read
Two doodles are standing next to each other. One has its hand up to its face and is saying, "Gee...what're you up to now, Doctor Doomento?" The other doodle is wearing a pasta strainer on its head. There are lightning bolts and an antenna sticking out from the top, and the bottom is plugged into an outlet. The doodle is saying "Transmitting the flu to the entire world!"
Two doodles are standing next to each other. One has its hand up to its face and is saying, "Gee...what're you up to now, Doctor Doomento?" The other doodle is wearing a pasta strainer on its head. There are lightning bolts and an antenna sticking out from the top, and the bottom is plugged into an outlet. The doodle is saying "Transmitting the flu to the entire world!"
Alt: A doodle says, “Gee… what’re you up to now, Doctor Doomento?” A doodle with an antenna on its head says, “Transmitting the flu to the entire world!!!”

It’s time for yet another installment in our “use simpler words” series. This week’s target: “transmit.”

Why? Because this verb sounds like it’s straight out of a sci-fi novel or ham radio how-to. And the related noun, “transmission,” is more hot rod than Hot Zone.

Consider these examples:

  • The flu can be transmitted easily from one person to another.
  • Mothers who take HIV medicine while they’re pregnant can lower the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Holy jargon, Batman! All this fancy fuss, dear readers, when we could use a plain language word like “spread” or “pass.”

Try these instead:

  • The flu can spread easily from one person to another.
  • Mothers who take HIV medicine while they’re pregnant are less likely to pass HIV to their babies.

The bottom line: When writing about infectious diseases, skip “transmit” and use “spread” or “pass” instead! (When writing about radios, aliens, or cars, it’s up to you.)

Tweet about it: #PlainLanguage PSA from @CommunicateHlth: When writing about how diseases spread, skip “transmit” — your audiences will thank you: https://bit.ly/2ExWD1t #HealthLit #communicateCOVID

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