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.

When to use ‘which’ or ‘that’ [NEXT SLIDE]

Consider the sentence: “The phase 3 trial, which was conducted across 22 centres, established the efficacy of xanolol.” [NEXT SLIDE]

The clause introduced by which gives us additional information about ‘The phase 3 trial’. However, this information is NOT essential to the meaning of the sentence – in other words it is non-restrictive – and could be removed without altering the meaning. [NEXT SLIDE]

So, a non-restrictive clause is introduced by which, and should be separated from the rest of the sentence by COMMAS or a single comma if at the end of a sentence. [NEXT SLIDE]

However, to illustrate the use of ‘that’ consider 2 sentences that describe 2 different phase 3 trials.

The phase 3 trial that established the efficacy of xanolol was conducted in 22 centres.

but…

The phase 3 trial that established the efficacy of zoltolol was conducted in 14 centres. [NEXT SLIDE]

In both sentences, the information introduced by ‘that’ is essential – or is restrictive – to the meaning of the sentence. The trial in sentence 1 established the efficacy of xanolol and the trial in sentence 2 established the efficacy of zoltolol.

So, a restrictive clause is introduced by that, and NO commas are used.

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]