Reading and Ranting
I've seen this little toy on other blogs, and although I've played with it, I haven't publicized my results before now. But here it is:
I'm proud of this, and of the fact that according to this calculator, my office web site comes out at the elementary school reading level. Here's why: it means that I have successfully avoided the use of excessive amounts of medical and other scientific jargon, meaning that my blog is accessible (and therefore -- hopefully -- interesting and informative) to individuals without a great deal of formal advanced education. At the same time, I would hope that physicians, scientists and other professionals recognize that I am indeed "one of them." While I am perfectly able to write (and read, obviously) at a much "higher" reading level, I choose not to -- and presumably am still able to make myself understood; both on this blog and in talking with patients.
I learned in a college linguistics course that the anthropological purpose of jargon is a means of group identity; not just, as Wikipedia and "common knowledge" would have it, as a convenient shorthand. It's a "secret handshake" whose use is meant to show others in the group that you are one of them, while intentionally excluding outsiders.
Therefore physicians who use medical jargon when talking to patients are not demonstrating their superior knowledge. They aren't even just being lazy. They are flaunting the fact that they are physicians -- members of a privileged group -- and that the patient is inferior because he is not.
Jargon is not only counterproductive to effective communication, but disrespectful and rude.