I start this time with a word you might not expect to see that it most likely will be mild and transient. Whatever the here: some. I recently edited a set of 130 narratives from case, the statement should be more precise, e.g.: You may different authors in oncology patients, and some, as an have mild blurred vision in the first few days after you start adjective, was often used not incorrectly, but inappropriate- ly for the written context of our work. This is followed bya few words about upon, much more about either, and finally I explore the use of that innocent-looking word, nor.
Either is a real all-rounder: it can be an adjective, a con- All have one thing in common: not surprisingly, they are junction, a pronoun, or an adverb. When using either as an used more loosely in spoken than in written English, which adjective, take care that it cannot be misunderstood as a
means that care is due when using them in written texts.
The antiproliferative effect of the combination was com- pared to that of either monotherapy on two breast carcino- ma cell lines (EMT-6, 4T1) in a concentration range of 1 nM He had reported some headache in the 4 weeks before the to10 µM for DRUG A and 10 nM to 100 µM for DRUG B. This sentence is complicated by the fact that the effects of According to the patient, she had had some pain in the leg each drug as monotherapy were compared with those of the before she was admitted to the emergency room. combination, but the effects of the individual drugs werenot compared with each other. Maybe you were lucky and She had had some diarrhoea after starting drug X and took read either as an adjective and therefore didn’t feel lost at OTC loperamide without consulting her doctor. the end of the sentence. If you read it as a conjunction, “What is wrong with these?” you ask. Nothing is ‘wrong’ expecting an alternative introduced by or after the clause with them; but you can literally hear the patient speaking following either, then you will have been lost at the end of here, and this illustrates very well that some used as an the sentence and had to backtrack. It is our business to adjective in this way is a constant feature of spoken know when we might make readers backtrack, and avoid it English, but that when you write it, the meaning is impre- where we can. With the same word order, this could have cise. The general feeling when speaking is that some used been avoided here by saying each or the individual drugs in this way means that the symptom was not severe, occurred infrequently or was transient. But what does some You might also consider changing the word order: The really mean in these examples? A few episodes of antiproliferative effect of the combination on two breast headache, or just slight continuous headache? Intermittent carcinoma cell lines (EMT-6, 4T1) in a concentration pain, or just a dull ache, or a few episodes of shooting range of 1 nM to10 µM for DRUG A and 10 nM to 100 µM pain? Continuous diarrhoea for 2 days or isolated episodes for DRUG B was compared to that of either monotherapy.
over an extended period? Often when writing narratives,you don’t know. Had the word some plus the symptom With this word order, it is much less likely that either been enclosed in inverted commas in these examples, it would be read as a conjunction, but, for me, the ‘basic’ sub- would have been clear that the patient (or investigator, i.e.
ject (The antiproliferative effect) is too far away from the CIOMS form) was being quoted and signals to the reader verb (was compared). The actual ‘compound’ subject in that ‘We have only this information and cannot supply any- this sentence is enormous. It stretches from The antiprolif- erative effect to DRUG B because the information on thecell lines and the concentration range are positioned before Quote from a patient leaflet: You may have some blurred the verb. So the problem with either may have been solved, vision for a short period after you start taking drug X.
but the sentence itself has not been improved. I am still not What is this supposed to tell the patient? The culprit here is keen on either because what is really meant is both, so not only some: what is a short period? Several hours, several would probably prefer both individual treatments. I am not days? The intention is obvious: not to alarm the patient by yet at the stage where I feel comfortable with monotherapy suggesting with some that blurred vision may occur, and The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association
> > > Four letter words and others In the following example, either is used as a conjunction
together with its frequent conjunction partner or, indicating I have yet to find an instance where the preposition upon, a choice between alternatives: The Territory Managers will frequently used when speaking, cannot satisfactorily be return the specified items to CPG, or to Head Office, with replaced with on when writing in our context. Upon does the appropriate forms, clearly marked either for reworking not sound ‘better’ than on. It is acceptable if it forms part of a collocation, e.g. ‘to put upon’ (I don’t want to put uponyou, but …[=I don’t want to cause you unnecessary effort, Purists would say here that you should say for either but…]), ‘Once upon a time …’, ‘The holiday season is reworking or destruction, or, if you want to have either almost upon us’, but in almost all cases such collocations before for, then for has to be repeated before destruction.
are used only when speaking or in non-scientific writing.
This is because they consider that the entire phrase forreworking or destruction is governed by the either as a sin- gle element and claim that a further possibility is required, Nor is a conjunction and is therefore a linking word. I was otherwise the sentence is incomplete: … clearly marked recently asked whether nor is dropping out of common use either for reworking or destruction, or for filing in the central in English. My questioner had noticed that when ‘native archive. For me, the original sentence would only be misun- speakers’ used neither they ‘usually’ followed it ‘these derstood or held to be incomplete by a bad-willed reader, and days’ with or. I have noticed this too, but would not say I don’t waste time correcting this sort of very marginally that it is ‘usual’, and it happens mainly when people are incorrect positioning of either as a conjunction, unless I think speaking. Either…or…, neither… nor… was what we it will lead to confusion, which not often the case.
learned at school, and this still holds true for writing. Here A further example of this is: After treatment of the animals either with DRUG A or DRUG B as described above, they Neither Method 1 or Method 2 was chosen; we selected received 5–bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) after the last treatment to label mitotic endothelial cells. This should clearly be: Neither Method 1 nor Method 2
Again, some might insist on … of the animals with either was chosen; we selected Method 3 because …. And I make DRUG A or DRUG B. At the risk of sounding to lax, I no Nor without neither is a useful linking word, as in the An interesting conjunctional use of either in the sense of examples for either above and the following: ‘not any more than the other’ is positioning it at the end of … and there was no evidence of accumulation in plasma, a sentence as a linking word: Clearance of DRUG X was nor was there evidence for accumulation of the vehicle. rapid and there was no evidence of accumulation in plas-ma; although clearance of the vehicle was much slower, The physician admitted that he had failed to measure the there was no evidence for accumulation in plasma either.
blood pressure according to protocol, nor had he docu-mented the ejection fraction correctly. This is the sort of sentence you will hear every day. I stressthe word ‘hear’, because this is a good example of a cor- Note: When nor is used in the above way, the subject and rect formulation that you would not normally write in sci- verb are always inverted (a rarity: a 100% rule in English).
entific texts because it sounds too ‘spoken’. In conversa- Caution with nor: it can sound poetic or formal because of tion, you might say We didn’t find any impurities in the the subject-verb inversion and because it can help in pre- sample, and your conversation partner might answer No, senting an idea in a compact phrase, a device often used in we didn’t find any either (or Neither or nor did we, of literature. Its perhaps most illustrious use in English is in course). What is the solution if you want to express the the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor same idea in writing so it doesn’t sound spoken? Here are two possibilities, but there are certainly more.
… although clearance of the vehicle was much slower, there was also no evidence for accumulation in plasma, or Clearance of DRUG X was rapid and there was no evi- dence of accumulation in plasma, nor was there evidence (often misquoted as: But or And not a drop to drink) for accumulation of the vehicle, although it was clearedmuch more slowly. The necessary inversion of the verb and subject after norwithout neither is not a common device in English (the Example of either used as a pronoun: Clean the slides
most frequent use is in conditional phrases such as ‘Had we thoroughly with fresh water or alcohol; either is suitable.
selected the nonparametric model, we would have …, Were When used as an adverb, there is clear overlap with its
we to opt for a twice-daily regimen, we might…). This can conjunctional use: Either reuse the slides after thorough lead to text sounding a little too ‘literary’: A marked cleaning with alcohol or discard them. increase in AUC was not seen, nor was expected.
The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association
This compact formulation is acceptable and grammatically C) Neither the study nurse nor the study physician was present correct, but some authors prefer to avoid this type of for- D) Neither the study nurses nor the study physicians were present. mulation in scientific texts. e.g.: A marked increase in AUC I must add, however, that when speaking, many people was not seen, and (this) was not expected, or A markedincrease in AUC was not expected and was not seen, or the (including me, as I am unfortunately not consistent very compact A marked increase in AUC was neither here) spontaneously use ‘were’ for examples B and C, because the feeling is that the subject of the verb is a The number of the verb after nor coupled with neither depends on the number of the subject nearer to the verb: A) Neither the study physician nor the study nurses were present Alistair Reeves
B) Neither the study nurses nor the study physician was present. Ascribe Medical Writing and Translation If both nouns are singular, the verb is in the singular; if both nouns are plural, the verb is in the plural: How to shorten text—we oweit to our readers A little thought can relieve the reader of a great deal of Then you start to think: but what are these two para-
graphs actually telling me? They are telling me: ‘We did
this and saw nothing’. Obviously the text cannot be
Observation of neurobehavioural variables, automated reduced to this, but it can be reduced by two-thirds and motor activity (CNS) and assessment of the respiratory function were performed in male rats at <NameX> dosesof 0.5 mg, 1.0 mg and 2.0 mg/kg b.w. lipid-complexed Neurobehavioural variables, automated motor activity <drug>. The CNS variables were measured 5 min, 6 hrs and respiratory function were assessed in male rats at and 24 hrs post-dosing, whereas the respiratory measure- <NameX> doses of 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 mg/kg b.w. lipid-com- ments were done 5 min, 15 min, 30 min, 60 min and 150 plexed <drug>. CNS variables were measured 5 min, and 6 and 24 h after dosing, and respiratory function 5, 15, No effects were observed in any of the neurobehavioural 30, 60 and 150 min after dosing. No effects were variables measured after the treatment with <NameX> at any of the dose levels and time points tested. Likewise no effects of <NameX> treatment, neither as a main treat-ment effect nor as an interaction with the time were Removing the active linking voice by putting the observed demonstrating that the breathing activity, the action in the sentence into a verb, in this case: ‘were tidal volume and the ventilatory flow were not affected at assessed’ instead of ‘Observation of … and assess- any of the dose levels and time points tested. ment of … were performed’, and choosing a new sub-ject, in this case, the variables that were determined.
The first reaction is to make the following changes Taking out the confusing conjunction ‘whereas’: this Delete the unnecessary abbreviation ‘CNS’ in the is too strong a linking word for this situation.
first sentence (It had been used before in the text to ‘Whereas’ implies a degree of unexpectedness or denote ‘neurobehavioural variables’ and ‘automated ‘unusualness’, or that something special has to be taken into consideration. This is not the case here: Use ‘h’ instead of ‘hrs’ as the abbreviation for all the author wanted was to list the measuring times ‘hours’ (‘hrs’ is not the scientific abbreviation, and for different sets of variables, and the times for each units are never used in the plural).
happen to be different, which is not surprising. This Remove inappropriate definite articles, e.g. before ‘respiratory function’ in the first paragraph and And, as you see, the second paragraph can be reduced ‘time’ in the second paragraph (controversial).
from 72 words to 4, because the message you want to Substitute ‘after dosing’ for ‘post-dosing’ (jargon).
leave with the reader is: No effects were observed.
Change ‘neither’ and ‘nor’ to ‘either’ and ‘or’ in thesecond paragraph (double negative because it says Alistair Reeves
‘no effects’ earlier in the sentence).
The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association

Source: http://www.emwa.org/journalarticles/JA_V17_I2_Reeves2.pdf

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