June 12, 2015

Quiz Bowl: Ophthalmology Terms

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 10:11 am
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Do you know the difference between disk and disc? What about vision and visual acuity? Or conjunctival hyperemia and conjunctival injection? That’s right, this month we’re talking about ophthalmology!

The AMA Manual of Style has an informative section on ophthalmology terms (§15.13). The section defines terms commonly used in radiology literature and offers instruction on how to use these terms correctly. Some of the terms addressed in the section are fovea, macula, lid, and orbit, as well as several acuity terms.

See if you can identify the problem(s) in the following sentence from this month’s quiz:

At initial presentation, her best-corrected visual acuity was 20/30 in each eye. Five weeks later, while taking 40 mg of prednisone, she reported no improvement in her vision, and her best-corrected visual acuity remained at 20/30 OU.

Highlight for the answer:

At initial presentation, her best-corrected visual acuity was 20/30 OU. Five weeks later, while taking 40 mg of prednisone, she reported no improvement in her vision, and her best-corrected visual acuity remained at 20/30 OU.

The abbreviations OD (right eye), OS (left eye), and OU (each eye) may be used without expansion only with numbers, eg, 20/25 OU, or descriptive assessments of acuity. Note that OU does not mean both eyes, although it is often used incorrectly to imply a vision measurement (eg, visual acuity or visual field) with both eyes at the same time (§15.13, Ophthalmology Terms, pp 736-739 in print).

That’s just a glimpse of what we have to offer in this month’s quiz on ophthalmology terms. If you’re a subscriber, check out the complete quiz at—Laura King, MA, ELS


May 19, 2015

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 9:43 am
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Q: I am putting together an annotated bibliography for a manuscript. What is the correct order recommended by the AMA Manual of Style for citing multiple articles by the same author? Is it by date of publication or article title?

A: The JAMA Network journals do not use a name-date style of reference citation. Instead they use a superscript reference citation system. If you look in the 10th edition of the Manual of Style, section 3.6 (Citation), you will see further information on this. So, it matters not the date of publication or the article title. What is key is the order in which the reference is cited in the paper, eg, the first reference to be cited would be reference 1, the second would be reference 2. (And if reference 1 is cited again later in the paper, it would still remain reference 1.)

Q: What do you tell authors who object to the house style your publications follow by saying that “Everybody does X [rather than what you recommend].”?

A: When people respond like this, I find that it’s helpful to look at what a few key style manuals or journals in the field (based on their Instructions for Authors) do in areas in which people have complaints or concerns. If you can put together a little chart (nothing fancy) showing that indeed maybe it is not EVERYBODY who does X, real data can sometimes calm the fevered brow. And sometimes you may find that indeed most others do have a different policy than what your house style recommends. Then it may be time to reconsider your policy. Sometimes this is how style policies change, and that can be a good thing. We learn from our authors just as we hope they learn from us.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

April 21, 2015

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 10:52 am

Q: I am writing on behalf of my editorial department. We are all very curious to know when we should follow the style outlined in 3.13.2, which calls for headline caps and italics for the publication’s title vs the style outlined in 3.15. 5, which in most cases calls for the title to be set in roman and title case. Why, in example 6 in 3.15.5, is the title set like those for 3.13.2? Is there a distinction between bulletins and reports?

A: Perhaps the line here is fine.  In 3.13.2, the examples are all bulletins. These are more like books, hence the cap and italic style you asked about. In 3.15.5, the examples are all reports. These might be booklike but they often are more like journal articles. The advice right before the examples is to use journal style for articles and book style for monographs. Reference 6, which you ask about, seems more booklike as it has a volume number. Sometimes it is really difficult to know what something is. If it is available online, you might look at it and be more easily able to determine what sort of “beast” it is.

Q: To adhere to the guidelines in the AMA Manual of Style must an author document all sources with footnotes in the text in chronological order? It’s my understanding that doing so serves, in essence, as a form of fact checking. Does your manual offer any other other guidance on fact checking?

A: Yes, we recommend that all sources cited in a manuscript be included in the reference list for the manuscript (with a few exceptions, which we recommend citing parenthetically in the text). These are not, however, cited chronologically (if by that you mean from the earliest published to the most recently published) but rather in order of citation in the manuscript (ie, the first reference cited would be reference 1, that cited second would be reference 2, etc; and if a reference is cited several times, it would each time retain its original reference number, so that if reference 2 is not only cited second but also appears later in the manuscript, it would still remain reference 2).

Whether this citation of references constitutes “fact checking” is a bit trickier to be sure of. As our manual states in the chapter on references, “References serve 3 primary purposes—documentation, acknowledgment, and directing or linking the reader to additional resources.” Citing a reference, and thereby crediting another source for the material cited, and also linking the reader to additional resources, is related to fact checking in that a reader could follow that link (ie, go to the reference cited) and make sure that it has been cited accurately. Whether that constitutes fact checking, though, is unclear. It does ensure that the original source has been cited/quoted correctly. But it doesn’t tell a reader if in fact that source is correct.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

March 18, 2015

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 3:44 pm
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Q: We are having a discussion about –ic and –ical. Dictionaries often use both. Where does the AMA Manual stand on this?

A: Please refer to the Correct and Preferred Usage chapter in the manual. You’ll see an entry on this very subject. In addition, there are entries on some of the pairs of words where the meaning of the –ic version is different from that of the –ical version (eg, classic/classical, historic/historical).

Q: Does AMA style advise against using a period after the abbreviation Inc?

A: Yes, we advise against using a period after the abbreviation Inc. This is addressed in section 14.7.

Q: In the course of developing a manuscript, an author has retired. Should we delete her affiliation? Or perhaps indicate something about her retirement in parentheses?

A: I would list the author’s affiliation, assuming she was affiliated with this institution while working on the paper. Then, follow the guidance about Author’s Affiliation (section 2.3.3) if a person has moved. This would mean adding an indication that Dr X is now retired. The style used for this notation will depend on the design of the journal involved. —Cheryl Iverson, MA

February 24, 2015

Sincerely, The Comma

Filed under: punctuation — amastyleinsider @ 1:25 pm
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Please enjoy this clever (if lengthy) New Yorker piece on the incredible comma, serial and otherwise.

February 5, 2015

January 22, 2015

Quiz Bowl: Web References

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 10:21 am

Recently, a user of the AMA Manual of Style wrote to us with questions about how to edit web references. As we worked to answer her questions, we discovered that although the manual provides instructions and examples for editing web references, the task can often make an editor feel like the proverbial fly trapped in the web of the spider.

One reason for this feeling is that it is often difficult to discern the types of materials available on websites. For example, delineating between authors and publishers as well as books or reports and journal-type articles can be challenging. Therefore, this month’s Style Book Quiz is on editing web references. Answers have been determined by extrapolating from the information in the AMA Manual of Style.

 As an introduction to the full quiz, edit the following web reference:

Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents, Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed October 30, 2014.

Highlight for the answer: Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Rockville, MD: US Dept of Health and Human Services. Accessed October 30, 2014.

Often government reports provide a suggested citation format. In this case, the suggested citation (as indicated on the bottom of the title page of the report) is as follows: Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at Section accessed [insert date] [insert page number, table number, etc, if applicable].

This style is close to AMA style and can be adapted to it by removing “Available at” and adding “US” before “Department of Health and Human Services.” In addition, one of the questions that arises with web publications is whether to style a title as a book title (initial capital letters and italicized type) or journal title (only the first word of the title capitalized and roman type). According to the AMA Manual of Style (§3.15.5), government/organization reports “are treated much like electronic journal and book references: use journal style for articles and book style for monographs.” In this case, the manuscript is a 282-page PDF document, so it is appropriate to style the title as a book title. Because the manuscript contains no publication date, this information cannot be included in the reference.

The full quiz (available to subscribers at provides more examples of web material that may be difficult to reference. Can we tempt you to try? Or as the spider said to the fly, “Will you walk into my parlour?”1Laura King, MA, ELS



  1. Howitt M. The Spider and the Fly. Accessed December 10, 2014.

January 2, 2015

Reluctant, reticent

Filed under: usage — amastyleinsider @ 9:18 am

These 2 terms are not interchangeable, although reticent is occasionally seen in informal usage as an imprecise synonym for reluctant.

Reluctant refers to someone who feels or shows doubt about doing something, not willing or eager, or feeling or showing aversion.  Synonyms are disinclined, dubious, hesitant, loath.

Dr Smythe was reluctant to share his preliminary, non–peer-reviewed research with the news media.

Reticent refers to someone who does not reveal his or her thoughts or feelings readily and is restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance.  Synonyms are reserved, withdrawn, introverted, inhibited, diffident, shy, uncommunicative.

 Professor Harrington has been described by colleagues and friends as “shy and reticent” but is also well known for his poise and calm demeanor during a medical emergency.

Roxanne K. Young, ELS


December 15, 2014

Ex Libris: Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 8th Edition

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 9:36 am
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Wondering what to give your favorite copy editor this holiday season? How about a copy of the new Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers? The eighth edition of the CSE manual, published this year (2014), is an updated, modernized version of the manual all editors turn to for science and technology style matters.

The eighth edition of the CSE manual is organized into 4 parts: Publishing Fundamentals, General Style Conventions, Special Scientific Conventions, and Technical Elements of Publication. Each of these parts has been revised and expanded from the seventh edition. In part 1 (Publishing Fundamentals), information has been added on abstracts, online databases and repositories, responsibilities of publishers, copyright basics, and creative common licenses. In part 2 (General Style Conventions), a new section on active vs passive voice has been added, and the section on “Numbers, Units, Mathematical Expressions, and statistics” has been significantly revised and reorganized. In part 3 (Special Scientific Conventions), several of the nomenclature chapters have been updated, including information on chemical kinetics and thermodynamics, analytical chemistry, astronomical objects and time systems, and genes, chromosomes, and related molecules, and the section has been reorganized by subject as opposed to science. In part 4 (Technical Elements of Publication), significant changes have been made to modernize the language and include new types of publication formats.  

Some of the specific changes in the 8th edition of the CSE manual that are pertinent to the working copy editor are as follows:

  • email
  • website
  • app (abbreviation for apparent)
  • f (not fl as abbreviation for fluid)
  • Use of the citation-sequence format for reference citations
  • Use of commas not thin spaces in numbers (1,000, 10,000, 100,000; not 1000, 10 000, 100 000)

Another advantage to the eighth edition of the CSE manual is that it is now, for the first time, available in both print and online versions ( Online subscribers will not only be able to perform full-text searches of the manual but also have access to the Chicago Manual of Style Online forum.

Weighing in at 722 pages, Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 8th Edition, is too large to stuff in a stocking but would serve nicely as a holiday gift. If gift giving isn’t your style, pick up a copy for yourself and add this essential scientific style manual to your personal bookcase.—Laura King, MA, ELS

November 26, 2014

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 3:35 pm
Tags: , ,

Q: I am used to writing “compared with” when discussing results/measurements. Can you please comment on whether this is correct?

A: This is addressed in the glossary in chapter 11. See “compare to, compare with.” You’ll see there that “compare with” is usually used when the aim is to examine similarities or differences in detail.

Q: I was trained in other settings to ignore having to write out the state on first mention if the city is well known, especially if the readership is primarily American. For example, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would not require adding the state name on first mention. Something like Spring Green would. What would AMA style require?

A: Please see section 14.5, where this is addressed in detail. The key sentence is this:  “At first mention, the name of a state, territory, possession, province, or country should be spelled out when it follows the name of a city.” In earlier editions, we used to follow a policy something like what you describe but changed that as it was a matter of opinion what was “well known” and what was not.  Also, with the international readership of so many publications, this becomes a trickier question.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

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