This blog post is in reference to my article in the May 2023 edition of the Lancet Psychiatry – Lithium Story: Eight Guidelines, Eight Recommendations. It is adapted from notes I sent to one of the editors when constructing the article.

The blog post is a criticism of the clarity and precision of the language used in lithium pharmacokinetic literature. The post focuses on a specific paragraph of the Grandjean paper that contains two examples of imprecise language. Alex explains the implications of the authoritative and inaccurate language used, which can lead to a false sense of understanding and clarity in a reader not familiar with the subject, and may cause a slow deterioration of the original research finding citation to citation, decade to decade. Alex also argues that imprecise language can cause the loss of scientific knowledge, using as an example the case of Amdisen and colleagues, who proposed taking patient serum concentrations at 12 hours in the 1970s, and soon after became standard practice worldwide, but with time the original research finding has been lost.

It might seem strange to say from someone writing a blog post criticising clarity and precision of language, but I personally find it very difficult to write clear and precise language. Goodness, if you could see my first-year PhD report!

But, because I had to work very hard to clarify the muddled thoughts in my head, I recognised mistakes in lithium pharmacokinetic literature similar to those I used to make in my writing.

In the Lancet Psychiatry article, I focus on the paper “Lithium: updated human knowledge using an evidence-based approach” by Etienne Marc Grandjean and Jean-Michael Aubry. It is an extensive collation of knowledge on lithium treatment. However, producing a paper with such breadth of knowledge, can in turn, lead to unclear and imprecise language given how much the authors are required to understand.

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