Attitudes towards elastic language in Australian online healthcare information
Based on questionnaire data in response to six excerpts of Australian online health information, this study investigates university students’ attitudes towards elastic language (EL). The findings show that averaging all six cases a neutral attitude is found, with no strong preference for EL or non-EL. This indicates that it is unnecessary to deliberately use more or less EL – the key is to use EL appropriately when and where it is needed. Examining the reasons for participants’ choices, we identify ten frames. Often the same EL generated positive and negative comments: a phenomenon that can be explained in terms of two sides of a frame. The findings may help healthcare professionals to deliver medical information in ways most accessible to the public and to find effective ways of communicating uncertainty. A ‘one fits all’ rule for language use does not exist, and instead multiple standards guide our use of it.
Keywords: elastic language, vague language, healthcare communication, online information, elasticity, framing
Published online: 07 April 2020
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