Writing for Business

Oct 25 2010   2:24PM GMT

Arcane or archaic?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
It will still be years before electronic health records replace the ________ paper-based system.
a. arcane
b. archaic

Answer: b.

Archaic means so outdated as to appear to belong to an earlier era in history, which works perfectly to describe a paper-based system in medical records while the rest of the world goes digital.

Arcane, on the other hand, describes obscure and/or mysterious knowledge that is only available to a select few, such as those initiated into a secret society.

I like Merriam-Webster’s example: grammatical rules that seem arcane to generations of students who were never taught grammar in the first place.

This post was inspired by an article in the Globe and Mail that quoted Telus CEO Darren Entwistle calling the Canadian medical records system “arcane.”

Learn more about the current status of Health IT.

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1  Comment on this Post

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  • NW6Wordsmith
    Thanks Ivy,

    I have opted for archaic in the below sentence

    Construction of the present Sir William Chambers-designed began in 1776, in order to house the The Salt Office, The Stamp Office, The Tax Office, The Navy Victualling Office and the Publick Lottery Office among many other now archaic departments of state.

    Somerset House 
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