Monday, January 25, 2010

The maniacal use of “issues” (3)

In an earlier post, I discussed the maniacal use of “issues.” I explained how people often use the vague, general word “issues” instead of saying precisely what they mean. I gave an example from Yale University’s web site: “cleanliness issues,” apparently used as a euphemism for, “We think the graduate students are too lazy to clean up after themselves.”

In another post, I pointed out a confusing and possibly dangerous use of “safety issues.”

Here’s another good example of the abuse of “issues.”


If you type “health issues” into Google, Google will report more than 15 million hits. But what precisely is a “health issue”?

When someone says “a health issue,” does he mean a disease, a condition, a syndrome, a disorder, or a malaise? Or does he mean a symptom or an indication? Or a pathogen or allergen? How about an epidemic, a pandemic, or a lack of money to purchase medicines?

Or what about poor health in general, sickliness, inability to remember to take medicines as directed, or ignorance that a certain disease (such as diabetes) may actually be preventable? Or a localized shortage of doctors or nurses or medicines, or an error in prescribing a medicine?

And let us not forget smoking, sexual promiscuity, lack of exercise, addiction to heroin, and the use of dirty needles.

The Takeaway: Don’t be rude to your reader. Before you use “issues,” or any other vague fad-word, ask yourself, “What is a clear way to make my point?”

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