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.

The serial comma – otherwise known as the ‘Oxford’ comma [NEXT SLIDE]

The serial comma is the optional comma before the ‘and’ that precedes the final item of a list. [NEXT SLIDE]

So, in the sentence ‘I have a dog… a cat… and a goldfish, the serial comma would be placed between cat and the ‘and’ that follows it. [NEXT SLIDE]

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Nowadays, the serial comma is usually used in US English but NOT usually used in UK English.

It’s called the ‘Oxford’ comma because it was traditionally used by writers at the Oxford University Press. However, it’s now been abandoned by many users of UK English. [NEXT SLIDE]

But now consider the sentence:
T-shirts are available in black and white …… grey and blue and red and yellow. We have a problem here because without the serial comma, T-shirts only seem to be available in two different colour combinations. If T-shirts are available in three different colour combinations, then we require the serial comma. [NEXT SLIDE]

So to prevent ambiguity in UK English, it is both acceptable and necessary to use the serial comma.

T-shirts are available in black and white, grey and blue, […pause…] and red and yellow.

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

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We are building a library of free webcasts and other video content for the global MedComms Community and others at http://www.networkpharma.tv and we’d welcome your suggestions for new content.

[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]