3.2- Practice, colon and dash

دوره: Writing in the Sciences / فصل: strong paragraphs / درس 2

3.2- Practice, colon and dash

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But that application of clinical epidemiology, that was somewhat wordy, so I think we could even cut that out and just say, evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians how to find, how to assess, and how to decide. So this one reads, finally, the lessons of clinical epidemiology are not meant to be limited to academic physician-epidemiologists, who sometimes have more interest in analyzing data than caring for patients. What if we just said the lessons are not limited to, get rid of the meant to be, to academic physician-epidemiologists, who sometimes have more interest in analyzing data than caring for patients.

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in this next module, we’re going to practice using the colon and the dash to merge sentences. I’m going to lead you through my edits, so it’s fine to just watch this video all the way through. But if you have extra time, it’s always a good idea to pause the video and try editing the examples on your own. I have provided the text of the examples if you want to do that. Here’s the first example. It says evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians the practical application of clinical epidemiology, as needed to address specific problems of specific patients. It guides clinicians on how to find the best evidence relevant to a specific problem, how to assess the quality of that evidence, and perhaps most difficult, how to decide if the evidence applies to a specific patient. Okay, hopefully as I’m reading that out loud, you noticed the repetition. There’s a lot of repetition here, there’s a lot of wordiness. As a specific example, that first sentence says, evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians. The second sentence says, it guides clinicians. And this is one of those instances, where I imagine that the author was sitting there. They’re saying to themselves, I already used the word teaches, and I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’m going to reach for the thesaurus. And they find the word guides, and they’re happy. But remember to catch yourself when you’re doing this. If you’re reaching for the thesaurus, ask yourself, do I really need the second instance of the word at all? This is a case where we don’t need to repeat. We can actually merge these two sentences together, so that the teaches clinicians reaches across both sentences. Another thing to point out about this example is that we have a list of things in the second sentence, how to find, how to assess, and how to decide. And as I’ve mentioned, a colon is a good way to set up a list. So perhaps we can use the colon here to set up that list and draw this all into a single sentence. So we can say evidenced-based medicine teaches clinicians the practical applications of clinical epidemiology. And then I’m going to put the colon here because I think this as needed to address specific problems of specific patients is very vague and wordy and is just completely not needed, so we can put the colon here. We no longer need the it guides clinicians because we already said teaches clinicians. We can just dive right in to the list. Evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians how to find, how to assess, and how to decide. Now there’s some other words we can trim out here, so I trimmed out a few more words, but here’s my final edit. Evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians the practical application of clinical epidemiology: how to find, how to assess, and how to decide. So I joined those two sentences together with a colon. We could probably do even a little bit better here. There’s even a bit more we can edit. When I edited this for the author originally, they really wanted to make that point about applying clinical epidemiology, so I left that in. But that application of clinical epidemiology, that was somewhat wordy, so I think we could even cut that out and just say, evidence-based medicine teaches clinicians how to find, how to assess, and how to decide. And notice, now you don’t even need the colon to set up the list. Okay, one more example, now, we’re going to use the dash to bring sentences together. So this one reads, finally, the lessons of clinical epidemiology are not meant to be limited to academic physician-epidemiologists, who sometimes have more interest in analyzing data than caring for patients. Clinical epidemiology holds the promise of providing clinicians with the tools necessary to improve the outcomes of their patients. As I’m reading that, hopefully you noticed some of this wordiness. I hope you also noticed that we’ve got this kind of long clause, descriptive clause, thrown in there, who sometimes have more interest in analyzing data than caring for patients. And this is an instance where we could probably set off that long, descriptive clause with dashes. And we could just connect the first and the second sentence. So that’s what I’m going to do here. There wasn’t a great transition between the first sentence and second sentence, so using dashes here will also solve that problem. So what I’m going to do is I am going to just put all of that descriptive clause between two dashes. So we get, finally, the lessons of clinical epidemiology, and then we get some wordiness here, are not meant to be limited to. What if we just said the lessons are not limited to, get rid of the meant to be, to academic physician-epidemiologists, who sometimes have more interest in analyzing data than caring for patients. And then, we don’t need to repeat clinical epidemiology, so we can get rid of that. The lessons hold the promise of providing, but hold the promise of providing is a really long way to just say provides. So we could substitute just one verb there. And then we get clinicians with the tools necessary, well, the word necessary is not necessary there. Provide clinicians with the tools to improve the outcomes of their patients. There’s actually a shorter way to say that. Instead of saying the outcomes of their patients, we could say, their patients’ outcomes, and it’s just slightly shorter. So we can edit that one down to, finally, clinical epidemiology is not limited to academic physician-epidemiologists, who are sometimes more interested in analyzing data than caring for patients, but provides clinicians with the tools to improve their patients’ outcomes. So that’s a lot smoother, and it gets the information across much more efficiently. One final thought on this edit. I noticed that in the first sentence, when I edited this, I actually left in a not. And I’ve told you to try to get rid of nots. I ended up deciding that the not works okay here, and I didn’t find an alternative that I liked better. Probably if I worked harder on this, I could find a way to turn that into a positive construction. Maybe you could say something like, finally clinical epidemiology extends beyond academic physician-epidemiologists, something like that. But I think it reads okay with the not. So I just want to point out that I’ve given you a lot of guidelines and rules in this course, and you should keep in mind that these are not absolutes. Sometimes you’ll decide that a sentence works better with a not or with a passive verb. As long as you’ve thought about it carefully and deliberately, that’s fine.

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