Here at We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, periods are our second favorite punctuation mark. (You’ll always be first in our heart, em dash!) But that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re here to chat about the other kind of period — the menstrual kind.
As you know, dear readers, we always aim to use clear and accurate language to talk about bodies — even some of those, ahem, less elegant functions — and periods are no exception. Check out these tips:
- Stick to plain language words like “period.” “Menstruation” is a bit much, so just call it a period when you can. In more in-depth materials, where “menstruation” and “menstrual” may be need-to-know terms, be sure to include a definition. We ❤ this one from Planned Parenthood: “Menstruation — aka having your period — is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month.”
- Skip the euphemisms. When you’re texting your BFF, feel free to talk about “a visit from Aunt Flo” or “that time of the month.” But these terms may not be clear to everyone, so we generally leave them out of our health materials. Speaking of which…
- Know your audience. In particular, attitudes around periods vary a lot in different cultures. When in doubt, test with your intended audience to make sure your content resonates.
- Leave “feminine” out of it. Equating periods with womanhood is not a good look. There are plenty of women who don’t have periods — because they are transgender, take certain medicines, or have a health condition like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or low body weight. And there are plenty of transgender men and non-binary people who do have them. Plus, gendered terms like “feminine products” are way less clear than alternatives like… wait for it… “pads and tampons.”
The bottom line: When writing about menstruation, choose clear, plain language terms that everyone can understand. Period.