A client recently asked me to review and edit a draft press release, and I was struck by the overuse of the word “across.” It popped up in many instances:
- “consistent results across multiple clinical programs”
- “sustained results across metrics”
- “20 patients have been dosed across three trials”
- “patients have been followed for more than 30 months across two trials”
- “consistent expression of proteins across the two trials”
- “improvement across biomarkers”
- “baseline conditions across both studies”
- “stable disease across both trials”
- “levels remain stable across these four patients”
- “approach being implemented across the company’s clinical programs”
Is your head swimming yet? Does the overuse of “across” reflect a lack of imagination on the writer’s part, or overexposure to Marketing-Speak? Or both?
Mind you, I have nothing against “across.” Indeed, I’m a big crossword puzzle fan! Where would I be without “across”? Rather, my beef is with its overuse. That release is an extreme example, but I’ve noticed the increased use of “across” in a variety of medical communications. It smacks of an over-reliance on (bordering on an obsession with) concepts like “metrics,” and is reminiscent of the use of “spend” as a noun (another of my pet peeves — why can’t you just say, “expenditure”?).
My feeling is, whenever you’re tempted to use the word “across,” ask yourself if that is really the best word to use in that instance. Do you really need to use it 10 or more times in a single document, when two or three usages might suffice? Might another preposition or adverb, such as “in,” “throughout,” “within,” or “among,” work just as well, and be easier on the eyes?
The bottom line is: overuse of any single word risks diluting the impact of your message, and may alienate the reader. Choose your words carefully!