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I found this behind a medicine. At first thought, the sentence looks like it suggests avoiding exercise during the medication. However, I remember reading somewhere that in US English, when there is a list of items, the last item is NOT preceded by "and" unlike in British English. E.g.:

  • American English: "item1, item2, item3 are the items in this list."
  • British English : "item1, item2 and item3 are the items in this list."

This being an American medicine, should I infer that I should avoid oral calcium, dairy products and shark cartilage, and do exercise during the medication?

I know it sounds trivial, but something like this on a medicine, I better get the facts right.

And for the record: The medicine is not for me. I was asked this question and was wondering myself.

Edit: The original text was "Avoid oral calcium, dairy products, shark cartilage & exercise during the cleanse". I had to change "during the cleanse" to "during the medication" to give the question's title sufficient context.

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Remember that some antacids (calcium carbonate, specifically) are oral calcium, not just calcium supplements. –  Mike DeSimone Jul 24 '11 at 3:24
    
Hi @erjab, I think the spelling of "diary" is probably "dairy", meaning milk products, if you look at the item in question. I've edited to reflect this but please feel free to correct if I did alter anything that unintentionally changed your meaning :) –  aedia λ Jul 24 '11 at 3:39
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And, of course, it might mean "avoid exercising your shark" while taking the medicine. If it contains blood-derived ingredients your shark might unexpectedly go into "attack" instead of "play/exercise" mode. –  FumbleFingers Jul 24 '11 at 3:42
    
@aedia You are totally right! Thanks for correcting it. –  ErJab Jul 24 '11 at 3:42
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@aedia: haha very nicely spotted! But we'd be okay quietly writing on here on ELU. That's digital exercise, which my doctor says I need in order to relieve the arthritis implied by my monicker! :) –  FumbleFingers Jul 24 '11 at 4:04
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4 Answers 4

However, I remember reading somewhere that in US English, when there is a list of items, the last item is NOT preceded by "and" unlike in British English.

This isn't true. Both American English and British English use and before the last item in a list. You may be thinking of whether or not to use a comma before that and, which does vary, although not by region.

Avoid oral calcium, diary products, shark cartilage & exercise during the medication.

Furthermore, the & symbol, known as the ampersand, is simply another way of saying and.

Thus, one should not exercise while taking the medication.

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My opinion (reads, not medical advice) is that the entire list of things that you mentioned are NOT to be taken during your cleanse/medication or whatever it is that you are holding in your hand and reading the warning on.

I would also like to add an additional note/legal disclaimer here, that NONE of us here on EL&U, including myself, are counseling anybody on how to take any medication. No advice that we can offer you can or should replace the advice of a pharmacist, nutritionist or medical doctor.

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I understand that. I was asking a purely academic gramatical question. Thanks for mentioning it though, for others who stumble on this question later. –  ErJab Jul 24 '11 at 3:40
    
+1 @ErJab we can never be too careful these days, can we. Changed "you" to "anybody" - didn't want to assume you weren't previously aware of this :) –  Rachel Jul 24 '11 at 3:44
    
+1 for the disclaimer on medical advice. –  simchona Jul 24 '11 at 6:18
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Your informtion is not quite right. In US English, the word 'and' is definitely used before the last item in the list, in the same mode as your UK example. There's no accounting for the way in which marketing people butcher the language, but I can tell you with relative certainty that this label was not written was not written by an English speaker of any nationality: 'During the medication' is the giveaway. Medication is not a time frame. During refers to a period of time, not an object. I can't think of any copy-editor who would let this slip by without changing it to say something like 'while taking this medication.'

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I'm sorry, but the original text was "Avoid oral calcium, diary products, shark cartilage & exercise during the cleanse". I had to change "during the cleanse" to "during the medication" to give the question's title sufficient context. Would this make any difference? –  ErJab Jul 24 '11 at 3:07
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My interpretation of the label was that there is a list of things to avoid, followed by an instruction to exercise during the 'cleanse'. The list ended with the ampersand, I thought.

Given that we're not sure whether the label follows rules of grammar, it would be wise to seek clarification from a health professional like a doctor or pharmacist.

It all hinges on whether exercise during a 'cleanse' is a good idea or not. I have no thoughts on that.

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