To improve efforts to assist patients in making informed decisions regarding medications, current methods of providing information, such as patient counseling by pharmacists, must be examined. This will require attention not only to what content is delivered, but also how it is phrased by this group. Ten community pharmacists were videotaped while providing their customary patient counseling to two standardized patients receiving new prescriptions within staged scenarios. All of the pharmacists discussed side effects and management strategies. Vague, verbal descriptors of frequency--rather than numerical indicators--were used which may inhibit accurate risk assessment by patients. Additionally, pharmacists focused on safety aspects of using medications and spent far less time discussing potential therapeutic benefits. Patient decision-making regarding medication may be affected by how pharmacists communicate such benefits and risks, meriting further investigation into patients' interpretations of information received.