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Oxford comma-hating Therese Coffey uses… Oxford comma

So much for hating Oxford commas, Therese! Eagle-eyed Twitter users mock Health Secretary’ Coffey for ’embarrassing’ gaffe in NHS rescue plan

  • Last week Dr Coffey ordered civil servants to stop using the Oxford comma
  • Eagle-eyed Twitter users called her gaffe ‘tremendously embarrassing’
  • One GP questioned if it was ‘grammatical inconsistency or high level trolling’

Last week she ordered civil servants to stop using the Oxford comma.

Yet Therese Coffey has now been caught using the, supposedly, banned grammar herself.

Eagle-eyed Twitter users, who spotted the newly-appointed Health Secretary’s own goal, called it ‘tremendously embarrassing’.

One GP questioned if it was ‘grammatical inconsistency or high level trolling’. 

Dr Coffey’s gaffe was made in a ministerial foreword atop of her NHS rescue plan, in which she promised not to ‘paper over’ the ‘immense challenges’ the health service faces.

Dr Coffey’s ban on the Oxford comma emerged last week. Her office emailed staff in the Department of Health and Social Care a list of instructions detailing the karaoke-loving MP’s ‘working preferences’

Dr Coffey's gaffe was made in a ministerial foreword atop of her NHS rescue plan, in which she promised not to 'paper over' the 'immense challenges' the health service faces

Dr Coffey’s gaffe was made in a ministerial foreword atop of her NHS rescue plan, in which she promised not to ‘paper over’ the ‘immense challenges’ the health service faces

Her statement read: ‘Our plan will sit alongside the NHS Long Term Plan, the forthcoming workforce plan, and our plans to reform adult social care.’ 

Billy Palmer, a policy commentator at the Nuffield Trust think-tank, highlighted Dr Coffey’s use of the comma.

He wrote: ‘It would be tremendously embarrassing if there was an Oxford comma in the Secretary of State’s Ministerial foreword.

‘But, of course, that wouldn’t happen. Would it?’

Dr David Coleman, a GP in Doncaster, said: ‘Kudos to Therese Coffey for dropping an Oxford comma in her foreword to “Our plan to patients”.

‘Grammatical inconsistency or high level trolling?’ 

Billy Palmer, a policy commentator at the Nuffield Trust think-tank, highlighted Dr Coffey's use of the comma. He wrote: 'It would be tremendously embarrassing if there was an Oxford comma in the Secretary of State's Ministerial foreword. 'But, of course, that wouldn't happen. Would it?'

Billy Palmer, a policy commentator at the Nuffield Trust think-tank, highlighted Dr Coffey’s use of the comma. He wrote: ‘It would be tremendously embarrassing if there was an Oxford comma in the Secretary of State’s Ministerial foreword. ‘But, of course, that wouldn’t happen. Would it?’

Dr David Coleman, a GP in Doncaster, said: 'Kudos to Therese Coffey for dropping an Oxford comma in her foreword to "Our plan to patients". 'Grammatical inconsistency or high level trolling?'

Dr David Coleman, a GP in Doncaster, said: ‘Kudos to Therese Coffey for dropping an Oxford comma in her foreword to “Our plan to patients”. ‘Grammatical inconsistency or high level trolling?’

What IS an Oxford comma?

An Oxford comma is used after the penultimate item in a list, before the words ‘and’ or ‘or’.

Its name is derived from its use being traditionally required by the Oxford University Press. 

But in UK English, it is generally deemed unnecessary apart from where lists involve pairs, such as ‘red and white, and green and blue’.

Use of Oxford commas is a divisive issue in the US, with the The Chicago Manual of Style is pro-Oxford comma, while the Associated Press Stylebook is against.

Dr Coffey’s ban on the Oxford comma emerged last week. Her office emailed staff in the Department of Health and Social Care a list of instructions detailing the karaoke-loving MP’s ‘working preferences’.

It also included a ban on using technical jargon and urged workers to ‘be positive’. 

Recipients of the email called it ‘extremely patronising’. 

It was sent amid the looming threat of job cuts, with the Government keen to stamp out bureaucracy and save millions of taxpayer cash.

An Oxford comma is used after the penultimate item in a list, before the words ‘and’ or ‘or’.

Its name is derived from its use being traditionally required by the Oxford University Press. 

But in UK English, it is generally deemed unnecessary apart from where lists involve pairs, such as ‘red and white, and green and blue’.

Use of Oxford commas is a divisive issue in the US, with the The Chicago Manual of Style is pro-Oxford comma, while the Associated Press Stylebook is against.

Jacob Rees-Mogg sent out a similar style guide as Dr Coffey when given the role of Leader of the House of Commons in Boris Johnson’s Government.

Staff were urged not to use the Oxford comma in guidance sent out in 2019.

Meanwhile, banned words and phrases included: very, due to, unacceptable, equal, yourself, lot, got, speculate, meet with, ascertain and disappointment.



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