What is the Term for Doctor’s Handwriting Called?

Deciphering doctor’s handwriting, often dubbed as chicken scratch, remains a fascinating yet daunting task for many outside the medical world. Despite its notorious reputation for being illegible, doctor’s handwriting merely mirrors the demands of their profession, and surprisingly, there’s no secret language or code involved.

Why is Doctor’s Handwriting Hard to Read?

Doctors are often attributed with bad handwriting due to the fast-paced nature of their work and the enormous amount of writing they have to do on a daily basis. The nitty-gritty of their job – noting patient histories, prescriptions, diagnosis, etc., must be penned down quickly.

This rapid writing often leads to reduced legibility.

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Doctor’s Jargon and Shorthand

While a doctor’s handwriting may not be the most legible to the common eye, it is usually clear to other medical professionals as they are familiar with terms and abbreviations used. Terms like ‘qd’ for ‘every day’ or ‘SOB’ for Shortness of breath are standard in the field. Simplified medical abbreviations coupled with poor handwriting might often appear as code writing, but it is not.

Coping with Illegible Handwriting

Despite the reputation of doctor’s handwriting, it is usually understood by those in the medical field like the pharmacists who are familiar with the names, doses, and forms of medication. However, precautions should be taken to prevent misinterpretation; including the use of computerized order entry systems, avoiding the use of nonstandard abbreviations, and taking time to provide patient education about their prescriptions.

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Changes in Modern Medicine

The digital era brings along medical advancements that increase the legibility and coherence of doctor’s notes. Electronic medical records and typed notes are increasingly being used for clearer communication, not only among medical professionals but also between doctors and patients. These steps are essential to ensure patient safety and accuracy in medical treatment.


Despite the notorious reputation of doctor’s handwriting, it is not a mystic language accessible only to a select few. Doctors’ “unique” handwriting is primarily due to the bustling nature of their work. The jargon, abbreviations, and forms they use are generally a shorthand born out of necessity. With modern tools like electronic health records and digital prescriptions, the healthcare industry is moving towards more legible and patient-friendly methods of communication, making the mystery of “doctor’s handwriting” more of a fascinating artifact of a bygone era.

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