How to refer to patients

April 2, 2014
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ENT Journal's Tips for Authors

We receive many manuscripts in which the authors refer to patients as “cases.” Patients are not cases. A case is simply a description of something that happens to a patient, a person. He is not a number. She is not a statistic. They are not cases. Please do not refer to them as such.

Another common error involves referring to a woman or girl as a female and a man or boy as a male. The words female and male are adjectives, not nouns and should not be used in their place. The exception to the rule comes into play when one is referring to a patient population consisting of both children and adults (e.g., “The study included 2,360 males and 2,227 females, ages 4 to 70 years.”) Otherwise the correct terminology is, for example, “A 30-year-old woman (not a “30-year-old female”) came to the clinic with a complaint of difficulty swallowing.”