It has been over 1 year since we observed the policing of the George Floyd protests in the United States [R. R. Hardeman, E. M. Medina, R. W. Boyd, N. Engl. J. Med. 383, 197-199 (2020)]. Multiple injury reports emerged in medical journals, and the scientific community called for law enforcement to discontinue the use of less-lethal weapons [E. A. Kaske et al., N. Engl. J. Med. 384, 774-775 (2021) and K. A. Olson et al., N. Engl. J. Med. 383, 1081-1083 (2020)]. Despite progress in research, policy change has not followed a similar pace. Although the reasoning for this discrepancy is multifactorial, failure to use appropriate language may be one contributing factor to the challenges faced in updating policies and practices. Here, we detail how language has the potential to influence thinking and decision-making, we discuss how the language of lesslethal weapons minimizes harm, and we provide a framework for naming conventions that acknowledges harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2117779119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 26 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 the Author(s).


  • health inequities
  • less lethal
  • linguistics
  • nonlethal
  • protest

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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