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Watch your language

First Published: 

Key Learnings contained in this article:

Troublesome triads

  • Adjunctive therapy, adjuvant therapy, and neoadjuvant therapy.

Adjunctive therapy is treatment used together with the primary treatment. Adjuvant therapy is treatment given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Neoadjuvant therapy is treatment given before the primary treatment. (Thanks to Amy Rothman Schonfeld for this one.)

  • Mean, median, average.

Mean and median are statistical terms; average is sometimes statistical. Mean is usually synonymous with average. It can be found by dividing the sum by the number of members in a group. The median is another type of average, and is the value below and above which there is an equal number of values or which is the arithmetic mean of the two middle values if there is no one middle number.

  • Medication, medicine, and medicament.

These words are virtually synonymous and can all mean therapeutic preparations or drugs. Medication (without being preceded by “a”) can also mean the treatment itself or administration of a therapeutic preparation. Medicine can also be defined as the science and art of maintaining health and preventing disease, or a branch of medicine dealing with nonsurgical treatment.

Singular or plural verb – do you know the answer?

1. A number of patients (was) (were) selected for the investigation.

2. A total of 257 products (was) (were) designated as orphan drugs by the FDA.

3. The number of erythrocytes (was) (were) excessive.

4. The total of students who were living on campus (was) (were) above capacity.

A number (a total) takes a plural verb. The number (the total) takes a singular verb.

Therefore: 1, were; 2, were; 3, was; 4, was.

1. None of the institutions in the consortium (has) (have) solutions to the problem of the uninsured.

2. As to the candidates for postdoctoral fellowships, none (is) (are) from this geographic region.

When none means not any, a plural verb is preferable. When none specifically means not one, a singular verb is preferable. Therefore: 1, have; 2, is.

Thanks to Edith Schwager, author of Medical English Usage and Abusage, Greenwood Publishing Group/Oryx Press.

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