Step 6 – Reviewing Your Definitions

Read your definition and make sure that it agrees with the word and the sense you are trying to define. Testing your definition on the format we wrote earlier.

In math, the substitution principle refers to the useful practice of replacing instances of a variable with a different variable. In definitions, it should be possible to replace a word in a definition by that word’s own definition without obtaining an unsatisfactory result[1].

For instance, if we were to use the substitution principle to examine covered entity, we would take the simple definition below:

covered entityHealthcare providers who transmit health information.

and replace key terms, such as healthcare provider, transmit, and health information.

covered entityHealthcare providers [individuals and organizations that provide healthcare services] who transmit [to send or cause something to pass on from one place or person to another] health information [Any information, including demographic information collected from an individual, that: (1) is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, employer, or health care clearinghouse; and (2) relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual; the provision of health care to an individual; or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual; and (i) that identifies the individual; or (ii) with respect to which there is a reasonable basis to believe the information can be used to identify the individual].

Verbose, but it works. The term doesn’t circle back on itself, begins with the category, and ends with the characteristics. It’s a good definition.

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[1] Svensén, A Handbook of Lexicography.

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