John Dixon, independent medical writer and trainer in scientific writing skills, provides a useful tip for medical writers who work in MedComms.

John’s Linkedin page is at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johndixonlmm/

John’s web page is at https://librasciencecomms.co.uk

Note these “bites” are recorded online using the zoom.us platform and hence quality may be affected by variability in internet connectivity and quality of webcams. The tips, however, are always first class!

Recorded 29 January 2019. Produced by NetworkPharma.tv

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Transcript

Hi, I’m John Dixon, a trainer in scientific writing, and here’s a bite that I hope may help you with your writing.

Avoid using too many subordinate clauses [NEXT SLIDE]

Consider the statement … If our trial proves that X has sustained efficacy compared with Y, we believe that X, even though it is more expensive, will become the first line of treatment in people with walking-mobile-obsession because too many people are injured walking into lampposts, which places a burden on healthcare resources.

Now the first thing you may not like about this sentence is that it’s too long. But it also illustrates a problem of style that can often complicate scientific writing … the use of too many subordinate clauses in one sentence. [NEXT SLIDE]

Here, the main sentence is “we believe that X will become the first line of treatment in people with walking-mobile-obsession”. But we also have four subordinate clauses, introduced by subordinate conjunctions … if … even though … because … and which. Subordinate clauses can add useful information to a sentence. However, our main sentence is camouflaged and complicated by too many subordinate clauses.

Try to limit the number of subordinate clauses you use in one sentence. Two is probably enough! [NEXT SLIDE]

It’s probably better to rewrite the sentence as 2 separate sentences. Make the main sentence stand out and limit the number of ideas per sentence.

So: Walking-mobile-obsession places a burden on healthcare resources because too many people are injured walking into lampposts. If our trial proves that X has sustained efficacy compared with Y, we believe that X will become the first line of treatment in people with this condition, even though X is more expensive.

This makes things a little easier to read and understand.

I hope that’s helpful. For more bites to help your writing, visit networkpharma.tv.

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[For the avoidance of doubt: this video is intended to be freely accessible to all. Please feel free to share and use however you like. Cheers Peter Llewellyn, Director NetworkPharma Ltd and Founder of the MedComms Networking Community activity at http://www.medcommsnetworking.com]