Why Everyone Is Talking About Therese Coffey And The Oxford Comma
Therese Coffey has sparked an angry backlash after telling healthcare workers to stop using the Oxford comma.
In case you were wondering, an Oxford comma is a punctuation mark used by some people after the last item on a list and before “and” or “or”.
The new health secretary and deputy prime minister’s office issued the bizarre edict in an email to staff in the Department of Health and Social Care and the UK Health Security Agency.
Coffey’s office also also told workers to “be positive” and stop using “jargon” in their written notes.
But it was the minister’s insistence on avoiding the Oxford comma which has led to criticisms of her “patronising” approach.
One - using an Oxford comma - said: “Therese Coffey can take a running jump, give her head a wobble, and get in the bin.”
Others said Coffey should concentrate on improving NHS performance rather than staff’s grammar.
SNP MP Stewart McDonald said the row showed Coffey had “totally lost it”, while others said it was proof the minister was not up to the job.
Dave Penman, general secretary of civil servants’ union the First Division Association, said: “Ministers will inevitably have different ways of working which need to be communicated.
“Leadership though, is about understanding how messages will be received and their impact, particularly on a workforce exhausted at all levels and whose entire focus is on the nation’s health.”
It is not the first time Coffey has made clear how much she dislikes an Oxford comma.
In 2015, she tweeted: “Apologies for posting that graphic which included an Oxford comma (one of my pet hates).”