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So I've been told to avoid repeating the same connective word in a title but I just can't seem to put together something that would make sense. My example title is below

Maternal age is correlated with decreased infant gut microbial diversity and changes in eating behaviour and infant weight

My attempts to remove the double usage of the word "and" have been as follows

A) "Maternal age is correlated with decreased infant gut microbial diversity, changes in eating behaviour and infant weight"

B) "Maternal age is correlated with a decrease in infant's gut microbial diversity, changes in eating behaviour amongst infants and infant weight"

C) "Maternal age is correlated with decreased gut microbial diversity, changes in eating behaviour and weight in infants"

D) "Maternal age is correlated with decreased infant gut microbial diversity along with changes in eating behaviour and infant weight"

So of these 4 which would be grammatically better than the original in your opinion? Or is there a much better way of going about this?

For clarification's sake, the variable maternal age was found to be correlated with decreased infant gut microbial diversity. It was also found to correlate with changes in eating behaviour amongst infants. Lastly, it was also found to correlate with infant weight.

tldr: Supervisor doesn't want to see the word "and" used twice in the title.

3 Answers 3

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First of all, there is nothing wrong with using the word "and" twice in a title. Sometimes avoiding such use makes writing stronger, but not always. However, if a supervisor demands this, one must normally comply.

All of the suggested alternatives, A) through D) are grammatically valid, and a fluent user of English might write any of them. All except D) form a three-item list, and I would use a serial comma before the final "and". But that is a matter of style, such a comma may be freely included or omitted.

I, personally, would not favor C), because by moving 'infants'" to the end, it makes the reader wait to understand whose "gut microbial diversity" is being discussed. So I would favor A) or B), but again, any of the four would be acceptable.

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As another answer notes, there is nothing wrong in general with using "and" multiple times. However, your original title is ambiguous for several reasons:

  1. It is unclear whether "decreased" modifies only the microbial diversity or both the microbial diversity and the changes.

  2. It is unclear whether the changes are only in eating behavior or are also in infant weight.

  3. It is unclear whether the eating behaviour is the mother's or the infant's.

Your options A, B, and C suggest that the changes are only in eating behavior, your option B suggests that the eating behavior belongs to the infants, and your option D suggests that the decrease is only in microbial diversity. (By the way, your option B is ungrammatical because "infant" would require a determiner.) Assuming that that is correct, something like this would resolve all of the ambiguities:

Maternal age is correlated with infant weight, changes in infant eating behaviour, and decreased infant gut microbial diversity

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  • Thank you for your comments. Just to answer your questions the term "decreased" modifies only the microbial diversity. Eating Behaviour refers only to the eating behaviour of the infants and not of the mothers. Both eating behaviour and infant weight are correlated to maternal age and both undergo changes due to maternal age. Infant weight specifically decreases with increased maternal age. Since English isn't my native language I've been a bit troubled how to have all these results show up in the title.
    – user305902
    Aug 19, 2022 at 22:05
  • If the changes are in both eating behaviour and infant weight, then options A, B, and C would be quite unusual, because you'd be connecting two conjuncts with only a comma. If you clarify that in your question, then I'd be happy to update my answer. Aug 19, 2022 at 22:15
  • Updated the question.
    – user305902
    Aug 20, 2022 at 1:27
  • But your edit doesn't reflect your comment above. The comment says "both eating behaviour and infant weight . . . undergo changes due to maternal age", but your edit only mentions "changes in eating behaviour amongst infants" and not changes in infant weight. (This might actually be a very minor point and not worth worrying about.) Aug 20, 2022 at 3:16
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This works: Maternal age is correlated with decreased infant gut microbial diversity as well as with changes in eating behaviour and infant weight

Of your four proposed revisions, only D is grammatically correct. (I say this as a copy editor and writer with almost 40 years' experience; I mean no disrespect to the others who responded to you, but A, B, and C are incorrect.)

Let's simplify this sentence to understand why two conjunctions -- two "ands," or one "and" and one synonym -- are needed.

Age is correlated with decreased X ==and== changes

BUT, we're talking about two types of changes, so that become

Age is correlated with decreased X ==and== changes to One ==and== Two

The "and" that links One and Two CANNOT do double duty as the "and" that links "decreased X and changes."

So. Altering the conjunction and that links the two types of changes would be little clunky (changes in ___ as well as in ___), so let's alter that first conjunction. Here's the simplified version, to help you see the sentence structure: Age is correlated with X as well as with changes to One and Two.

PS: If you want to make your supervisor's head explode, show her that multiple ands are sometimes necessary:
We ate mac and cheese, ham and eggs, and peaches and cream.

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