Thursday, November 09, 2006

the show

hey, does anyone have an opinion on the verb "show"?

i'm having trouble determining whether there's an actual grammatical or stylistic basis for my dislike of this word. for example, would you keep the verb "show" in these sentences or attempt to change it:

"Gross neuropathologic examination showed brain weighing 1230 g, mildatherosclerosis....

"The substantia nigra (SN) and locus ceruleus (LC) showed a moderate loss ofpigmented neurons....

"Initial laboratory studies showed normal thyroid tests, B12, chemistries....

the author uses "show" about a billion times. i think my problem is that it (a)sounds sloppy and vernacular--this may be personal taste--and (b) it isn't always literally accurate (the SN and LC don't actually do any showing). however, there's a chance that "show" might have special neuropathological meanings, but i haven't found anything of the sort, and it's unclear from the literature whether neuropathologists are using it techinically.

andrew david. "doh" saskatchewan, canada.


Chadius said...

I think that an imaging study or some such thing actually did the showing not the SN or LC. The SN and LC are parts of the brain that have changed so I think that it would be better to say, "an MRI scan of the brain from a midsagittal view with t1 weighting showed the SN and LC have lost a moderate amount of....."

I have also found when writing scientific literature that in the area of statistics in particular there are many rules made to make a study more precise which are promptly ignored when they get too complicated. That is to say the word "show" may very well just be used suckily repeated to the point that it is no longer noticed because it gets to complicated to continually refer to what actually did the showing.

I seem to have a personal preference against the word show as well since I occasionally go out of my way to avoid it when completing treatment documentation. For instance I might write, "During functional gait analysis the patient demonstrated....." rather than, "FGA showed......."

But that’s just me.

andrew said...


yes! i am sooooooo happy that i'm not the only one that's bothered by the shows. and i'm glad that you use better, more accurate synonyms. maybe between the two of us we can cause a revolution in science writing.