Have you ever watched a movie, TV show, or read a book and been put off by an obvious anatomical error? I know I have. And it doesn’t necessarily ruin the viewing/reading experience for me, although these are small details that I remember. These mistakes stick in my mind and I often wonder how many other people have picked up on them.

Now, this may just be me. I have studied human anatomy subjects at university and worked as a Tutor/Demonstrator in a University Anatomy Laboratory, so maybe I actually enjoy being able to spot these small details. I also write crime fiction and have worked in book publishing in typesetting where I was able to read a lot of books in progress. And as I took in manuscript corrections I was in a position to be able spot a few anatomical mistakes whilst books were still being edited, and hence these small details were fixed.

Of course, I don’t pick up on everything as I am limited by my own knowledge and experience. I will only notice details that I am familiar with, and so will other viewers/readers, depending on their own knowledge and experience.

Checking the anatomical details in your writing may only be a small part of your writing research as other areas will also require extensive research. But as with all research – the more accurate the details – the more enjoyable the story will be to viewers and readers who are likely to notice these details.

For Example:

DEXTER – one of my favourite shows. 1st season, episode 4, when the killer leaves a severed foot on a bench chair. Dexter says, ‘the foot was severed between the tarsus and the metatarsus. The wound is circular, again almost surgical’.  

Okay. Alarm bells rang instantly. I was like hang on, that’s not right.

The foot was not severed between the tarsus and the metatarsus – this is a completely different area (see diagrams below), which Dexter could not actually see, as this part of the foot is inside the shoe.

The distal ends of the Tibia and Fibula bones were severed.


X-RAYS – Here is one example of how easily you can fix a mistake. I can’t remember what show I was watching, but it was a scene in a doctor’s office with two people talking and in the background on the wall was an x-ray viewer light box with a chest x-ray film displayed. The problem was that the x-ray was upside-down!

Yes, a simple mistake that could have been avoided. Now not everyone would notice something like this, but it they knew what to look for then it would have been so easy to check that the x-ray was upright and facing the right way.

INCORRECT – X-ray is upside-down

CORRECT – X-ray is upright

What To Look For

One easy way to determine if an X-ray or CT or MRI scan is around the right way is to check that the writing is correct. Although some films may not always have clear writing on them so knowing what you are looking at will also help to determine the correct display.

Here are a few things that you can look for: The neck and shoulders are superior. The two clavicle bones (collar bones) are superior and sit up the top of the rib cage. The diaphragm (looks like a white balloon) is inferior, it sits at the bottom of the ribs. And generally in most people the heart will sit slightly to the left side of the sternum (breastbone).

Please note that a lateral (side view) chest x-ray will look different to a front (PA or AP) chest x-ray. See images below. The image on the right is a lateral chest x-ray. In this image you can see the diaphragm at the bottom and the spinal column on the left side of the image.

I will discuss medical imaging and anatomical terminology in more detail in future posts.


Research is a key factor in getting the anatomical facts correct in your writing and it doesn’t have to be hard to learn how human anatomy works.
Stay tuned to this blog series to help increase your knowledge of human anatomy and avoid unnecessary errors in your writing.

Handy Reference Books

I highly recommend these two pocket-size books as easy reference tools for writers when researching Human Anatomy and Physiology.

Pocket Anatomy & Physiology 3rd Edition
By Shirley A. Jones
Full colour, spiral ringed flip book
326 laminated pages
Available at Booktopia

Oxford Minidictionary for Nurses
Oxford Quick Reference
8th Edition
896 pages

Available at Booktopia

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