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Write lists more clearly with semi-colons

By 24 April 2019Test Tips

Lists are a great way to organise and communicate information clearly to the reader. When writing about a patient’s medication, a list is the perfect writing technique.

Writing clear and effective lists

When the information you are writing into a list is simple, you can use commas to separate individual items.

For example: “he takes metformin, lisinopril and atorvastatin”.

This sentence is clear because the information conveyed is simple, with commas separating the three different medications.

However, as the information you need communicate becomes more complex, simple comma base list can become unclear. You might need to provide the reader with extra detail, such as the dosage and frequency of the medication.

For example: “he takes metformin, 1000mg with his evening meal, lisinopril, 10 mg and atorvastatin, 20 mg both once a day”.

This sentence loses clarity because of all the commas, 4 in total, which means the individual medications no longer stand out as they do in the first sentence.

Swap commas for semi-colons

The simple solution to this in the second sentence is to use a semi-colon at the end of the description of each individual medication. The commas separating the name of the medication from its dosage can remain as they retain their useful function. The second sentence will then read:

He takes metformin, 1000mg with his evening meal; lisinopril, 10 mg and atorvastatin, 20mg both once a day.

If you’re looking for more OET preperation advice, take a look at the OET blog on through our Preparation Portal.

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