Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cancer diagnosis, grammar and Dennis Hopper

In his obituary for Dennis Hopper in The Washington Post on May 29, 2010, Adam Bernstein wrote: Mr. Hopper, who enjoyed a career resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s playing alcoholics and compelling psychopaths in films including "Hoosiers," "Blue Velvet" and "Speed," had prostate cancer diagnosed last year.

As usual, Adam chose his words carefully and condensed lots of information into one sentence that is easy to read and grammatically correct.

The cancer part reminded me of copy editors at the Cleveland Plain Dealer informing me, "People are not diagnosed with cancer. The cancer is diagnosed."

That pronouncement and recommended ways to express that a medical professional has determined that a person has cancer or some other life-threatening condition have resulted in my rarely using any form of the word "diagnose" in obits. I'm so certain I'll mess it up.

I would appreciate knowing how other obit writers handle diagnoses.

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