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Public health messages addressed to the general population should be clear and unambiguous. This is particularly important in times of a pandemic like COVID-19, when millions of lives are at stake. The message of “social distancing” used by public health authorities is a perfect example. It should be replaced by “physical distancing.”

“Language that is unclear — or worse, that conveys inadvertent and counterproductive meanings — undermines public health discourse. This is as true in public health as anywhere; successful behavior-change efforts, like those crucial to defeating COVID-19, depend in part on accurate, compelling language,” wrote Joanne Silberner and Howard Frumkin in The British Medical Journal.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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