Let’s talk Periods. Here at We ❤ Health Literacy … | for CommunicateHealth | health literacy


High: The scribbles in the background say, “Aunt Flo is in town!” and “I guess it’s this time of month!” A scribble in the foreground says, “Just say it point, point.”

Here a We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, dots are our second favorite punctuation mark. (You’ll always be the first in our heart, script me!) But we’re not talking about that today. We are here to talk about the other type of period: the menstrual type.

As you know, dear readers, we always want to use clear and precise language to talk about bodies, even some of them, ahem, less elegant functions – and periods are no exception. Check out these tips:

  • Go with simple language words like “dot”. “Menstruation” is a bit excessive, so just say it for a period in which you can. In more detailed materials, where “menstruation” and “menstrual” may be terms you need to know, be sure to include a definition. We ❤ this one from Planned Parenthood: “Menstruation, also known as having the period, is when blood and uterine tissue comes out of the vagina. It usually happens every month.”
  • Skip the euphemisms. When texting your best friend, feel free to talk about “Aunt Flo’s visit” or “that time of month.” But these terms may not be clear to everyone, so we usually leave them out of our healthcare materials. Speaking of which …
  • Get to know your audience. In particular, attitudes around periods vary widely across different cultures. When in doubt, experiment with your intended audience to make sure your content resonates.
  • Leave the “feminine” out of that. Equating periods with femininity is no a good look. There are many women who do not have periods because they are transgender, take certain medications, or have a condition such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or low body weight. And there are many transgender men and non-binary people who do have them. Also, gender terms like “female products” are much less of course alternatives like … wait … “pads and tampons”.

Conclusion: When writing about menstruation, choose clear, simple terms that everyone can understand. Period.

Tweet about it: We talk about periods. (No, not the grammatical type!) Check out @CommunicateHlth’s tips for writing content included in #PlainLanguage about menstruation: https://bit.ly/3vgg8RS #HealthLit

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