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April 11, 2014

Looking It Up: 2 Perspectives

Filed under: meta-blog — amastyleinsider @ 10:58 am

When I was in high school, I liked to do my homework at the kitchen table.  Invariably I’d come across a word that I wasn’t 100% sure I understood or, even more often, a word for which I wasn’t 100% sure of the spelling.  Mom was close at hand in the kitchen, so she was my first resource.  Handy and reliable too.  After I’d asked her about 3 questions, she’d say, “Why don’t you go look it up?”  Not as convenient, but I knew when I’d reached my mom’s limit!

Recently I asked a friend of mine with 2 grown children if there were any oft-repeated words of wisdom she remembered offering her kids as they were growing up.  One of the first things she remembered was “Don’t guess.  Look it up.”  Of course, she’s a librarian, so this is an answer designed to foster good research habits in later life…as well as reserve a few moments of peace and quiet for one’s own pursuits.

Now here we are in a time when the encyclopedia salesperson no longer makes house calls, trying to sell a many-volume set of hardcover books.  Instead, we have the smartphone.  Now, looking it up is a snap.  In fact, it’s almost an addiction.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

 

I have a “tween” daughter who is interested in sports, Minecraft, YouTube, wildlife conservation, and believing that she knows everything—not necessarily in that order. If I had been a parent 20 years ago, I might have been able to let the dubious or improbable-sounding facts she spouts off during breakfast slide by with a murmured, motherly, “mmmmm.” I might have been able to respond to questions about why Pluto is no longer a planet, how much would it cost to fly from Chicago to Ulaanbataar, or what is the total length of stretched-out human intestines with “I don’t know” or “Go look it up.”

But I am lucky enough to be a tech-connected parent in 2014, and I can know! The phone is in my pocket, the iPad is on the counter, the desktop is steps away! We can look it up together! (Short answers for the curious: too small, orbit too irregular; about $4000 for the 3 of us; and between 15 and 30 feet, depending on your anatomy.) Along the way, I have managed to sneak in a few meta-lessons to my daughter about critical thinking and what constitutes trustworthy information on the internet. You can’t believe everything you read!

Deciding on “screen time” allowances, finding the balance between work and home, and remembering never to put pixels over people are things we all have to navigate. But I have to admit that our “no devices at the dinner table” rule has a “let’s look it up” loophole—ready access to knowledge has solved arguments, taught us new facts, and livened up many a family conversation.— Brenda Gregoline

March 19, 2014

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 2:41 pm
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Q: Do superscript reference numbers go before or after colons? What about periods and commas?

A: Superscript reference numbers go before colons and semicolons and after commas and periods. See section 3.6.

Q: When will the next edition of the AMA Manual of Style be published?

A: We have begun work on the next (11th) edition but do not yet have a projected publication date. I think 2016 is realistic. In the meantime, I hope you avail yourself of the online updates, which provide policy changes, etc. Those are free, if you do not have an online subscription. The monthly quizzes (which are free to subscribers) are also a good way (between editions) to see more examples.

Q: On PowerPoint slides, how do you recommend citing reference sources: on each slide that is not the presenter’s own, or at the end of the presentation?

A: At present, our style manual does not address style questions related to PowerPoint presentations; however, we are considering adding a few guidelines on this in the next edition. For now, I would suggest adding the reference sources on each slide, as a footer. Because the slides are likely to be pulled apart from the entire presentation and used by others, having the source with the content seems advisable.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

March 4, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Journal Names

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 3:14 pm
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Correctly abbreviating journal names in a long reference list is often like trying to create words from a bowl of alphabet soup—all the letters are there, but arranging them can be a messy business. The AMA Manual of Style recommends that journal names be abbreviated according to the guidelines of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Single-word journal titles are not abbreviated. For example, the journal Toxicology should not be abbreviated even though the word toxicology would be abbreviated in journal names of more than one word, such as Journal of Applied Toxicology, which would be abbreviated J Appl Toxicol. The NLM guidelines also state that articles, conjunctions, prepositions, punctuation, and diacritical marks are omitted in the abbreviated title form. Therefore, the word of in the journal name Journal of Applied Toxicology is eliminated.

That’s straightforward enough, but, as with all editing, there are exceptions. Some journals prefer to use single-word abbreviations rather than standard abbreviations, such as JAMA instead of J Am Med Assoc for Journal of the American Medical Association, BMJ instead of Br Med J for British Medical Journal, and BJOG instead of Br J Obstet Gynaecol for British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

This month’s Stylebook Quiz offers the opportunity to practice abbreviating journal names in sample references. See how you do with the following:

Zimmer Z, Martin LG, Jones BL, Nagin DS. Examining late-life functional limitation trajectories and their associations with underlying onset, recovery, and mortality. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Journals of Gerontology. 2014;69(2):275-286.

Highlight for the answer:

Zimmer Z, Martin LG, Jones BL, Nagin DS. Examining late-life functional limitation trajectories and their associations with underlying onset, recovery, and mortality. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014;69(2):275-286.

The correct journal name is Journals of Gerontology, Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. The correct journal abbreviation is J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (§14.10, Names of Journals, pp 472-500 in print).

If you’re interested in additional practice abbreviating journal names, check out this month’s quiz at www.amamanualofstyle.com.—Laura King, MA, ELS

February 6, 2014

Ex Libris: Almost True Confessions

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 11:23 am
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No one appreciates Rannie Bookman. Only a short while ago she was the toast of New York for having solved the mystery of the Chapel School murder (in Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth), but now the media frenzy has faded, and Rannie is just another unemployed and underappreciated freelance copy editor.

There’s no denying it. Rannie is in a slump. She hasn’t felt this low since she was fired from her job at Simon and Schuster for approving a reprint of the Nancy Drew book The Secret of the Old Clock with a crucial letter missing in the last word. Her family thinks she just needs to get back to work. “You’re not Nancy Drew. You’re a copy editor. Stick to that,” her boyfriend Tim tells her. So, when her friend Ellen from Simon and Schuster calls to offer her some freelance work, Rannie jumps at the chance. Maybe this will give her a sense of purpose again. But mystery repeats itself when Rannie’s work leads her into dangerous territory in Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Tells All.

In this second book in the Rannie Bookman series, written by Jane O’Connor, Ellen offers Rannie a job copyediting a tell-all book about aged socialite Charlotte Cummings written by the gossip-wielding biographer Ret Sullivan. Rannie is intrigued, not only with the subject but also with the author. Ret Sullivan was renowned for destroying careers and lives with her books, but Ret’s own life was ravaged when an Oscar-winning actor who she revealed to be a child molester had thrown lye in her face, leaving her horribly disfigured. Even if Rannie didn’t need the work, this assignment was too intriguing to pass up.

So Rannie accepts the job and heads over to Ret’s apartment on the Upper East Side of New York to collect the manuscript. However, on arriving at Ret’s apartment, Rannie gets more than she bargained for when she discovers Ret tied to her bed and strangled with a Hermès scarf.  And Ret is just the first life the murderer claims. How can Rannie resist? It’s not her fault murder mysteries practically drop in her lap.

As Rannie starts to sleuth, she is led into the extravagant, moneyed world of high society. She is far from her own world of humble apartments, greasy diners, and working class bars, but she is in her element when it comes to hard-to-crack murder cases. Rannie has found her purpose once again.

Like Dangerous Admissions, Almost True Confessions is replete with details that will charm copy editors. Rannie is still the heroine with an editor’s sensibility and a proofreader’s eye. She still considers her words, and the words of others, carefully: “It flickered through Rannie’s mind that paranoia was by definition never justifiable; however, she held her tongue.” She still expertly knows her parts of speech: “No, no, no. ‘Less’ is an adverb, not an adjective. Far fewer friends visited, and they came less often.”  She is still skilled in word usage: “You’re referring to distance, so it’s farther apart, chided the picky grammar cop lodged in Rannie’s brain. ‘Further’ was for abstract mulling.” She is still in love with all things editing: “Then, too, there were all the wonderful arcane marks and symbols of copyediting. Insertion carets, transposition squiggles, underlining for italics, triple underlining for capitalization. It was like knowing a secret code.”

As Rannie and her creator Jane O’Connor (a long-time editor herself) know, this secret code is not appreciated by everyone. O’Connor writes, “Copyediting was an unglamorous job in publishing. Acquiring editors on the prowl for future Pulitzers and National Book Awards dismissed Rannie and her stickler ilk as the Grammar Gestapo, nothing more than human spellcheckers.” But as Rannie exemplifies, a love of language and a facility in manipulating it can serve you well in all parts of your life. In Rannie’s case, her talents lead her to solve mysteries.

As in Dangerous Admissions, Rannie uses the insight and problem-solving skills gained from years of copy editing work to identify the murderer in Almost True Confessions. She’s not a trained investigator. She’s not a law enforcement professional.  She’s just a copy editor with intense focus and a sharp mind. Rannie is the type of heroine that gives copy editors the appreciation they deserve.—Laura King, MA, ELS

January 29, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Comma

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 1:37 pm
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“Let’s eat Grandpa.”

“Turkeys gobble Grandma.”

“She finds inspiration in cooking her grandchildren and her dog.”

As the saying goes, “Commas save lives!” Just the simple addition of commas to the above sentences and Grandpa, Grandma, the grandchildren, and even the family dog are all free to live another day.

“Let’s eat, Grandpa.”

“Turkeys gobble, Grandma.”

“She finds inspiration in cooking, her grandchildren, and her dog.”

In an effort to end the scourge of comma-related fatalities, this month’s Style Quiz addresses the use of the comma.

Edit the following sentence based on your understanding of section 8.2 of the AMA Manual of Style.

The investigators performed a double-blind placebo-controlled patient-initiated 2-armed parallel clinical trial.

Highlight the text box for the answer: The investigators performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled, patient-initiated, 2-armed, parallel clinical trial.

In a simple coordinate series of 3 or more terms, separate the elements by commas (§8.2.1, Comma, Series, pp 337-338 in print).

If, like us at the AMA Manual of Style, you are determined to play a role in ending the epidemic of flagrant and dangerous comma misuse, check out the full quiz at www.amamanualofstyle.com.—Laura King, MA, ELS

January 9, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Forward Slash

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 9:56 am
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NOTE:

Thanks to an astute reader (gold star for Regina Scaringella) who noticed that our use of the forward slash in patient/physician relationship contradicted page 345 of the stylebook, we have revised this post. The following terms are correct: obstetrics/gynecology and patient-physician. (updated 2/3/14)

It should be easy, right? The use of the forward slash, that is. However, every time I encounter a forward slash in a manuscript, I know I’m headed for a fight. It’s me against the sinister solidus. Is it obstetrics/gynecology, obstetrics-gynecology, or obstetrics and gynecology? Is it male/female ratio, male-female ratio, or male to female ratio? I won’t let it defeat me! I shall tame the villainous virgule, and you can too. Below are 2 examples from this month’s Style Quiz that will help you fight the forward slash foe.

Edit the following sentences for appropriate usage of the forward slash based on your understanding of section 8.4 of the AMA Manual of Style.

The male/female ratio was 2/1.

Use your mouse to highlight the text box for the answer: The male to female ratio was 2:1.

Although a forward slash may be used to express a ratio (eg, the male/female ratio was 2/1), the preferred style is to use a colon to express ratios that involve numbers or abbreviations (the Apo B:Apo A-I ratio was 2:1) and the word to to express ratios that involve words (the male to female ratio) (§8.4.5, In Ratios, p 354 in print; see also §8.2.3, Colon, Numbers, p 342).

But what about that pesky relationship between obstetrics and gynecology? Maybe this will help.

The study examined academic performance in undergraduate obstetrics/gynecology clinical rotations. to achieve an effective patient/physician relationship was a top discussion priority at the annual meeting.

This example is correct as is. When 2 terms are of equal weight in an expression and and is implied between them to express this equivalence, the forward slash can be retained (§8.4.1, Used to Express Equivalence or Duality, pp 353-354 in print).

We hope these examples have helped arm you in the battle for mastery over the forward slash. If not, the full quiz (available to subscribers at www.amamanualofstyle.com) provides more guidance on the formidable forward slash.—Laura King, MA, ELS

December 16, 2013

Intention, Intent

Filed under: usage — amastyleinsider @ 10:56 am
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These words are used interchangeably in many contexts, and such usage is often perfectly acceptable. In some contexts, however, they do have slightly different meanings.1

Although both words connote an attitude of resolve toward a contemplated action, intention is the weaker term, often suggesting “little more than what one has in mind to do or to bring about”2 and sometimes also further signaling that the action was not or will not be acted on. If, for example, a speaker begins a sentence by saying “I had every intention of….” the listener knows very well the gist of what’s coming next, regardless of the words that actually follow.

Intent, on the other hand, is all business, suggesting a concentration of will and the active application of reason in making a contemplated action come to pass1: “They were rushing upon the old peasant with no very merciful intent.”3Intent often further signals that a contemplated action actually has been or will be carried out—which perhaps leads to its use in sentences such as “He who wounds with intent to kill…. shall be tried as if he had succeeded.”3 Perhaps for these reasons, intent is now most often encountered in legal communication,1,3 and its connotations in such contexts are well understood. Imagine, for example, that NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent had instead been titled Law & Order: Criminal Intentions. Loses something, does it not?

Another difference between the words is that intention is a countable noun, whereas intent is an uncountable noun.4 So, whereas a person might have a veritable laundry list of intentions related to a contemplated action (one might, for example, speak of one’s intentions for the coming weekend), one typically has only a single state of mind—an intent—related to that action. In short, intention often suggests mere ambition to achieve something, whereas intent often suggests the application of reason to actually achieve it. A clue to the distinction is that the words usually take different prepositions: intention takes to (think “to-do list”) or of, whereas intent takes on or upon.5

Intent and intention can sometimes apply in the same instance. A person might, for example, have every intention of never gambling again, even while heading to the track intent on making a killing.

In medical contexts, the words appear in the constructions “intent-to-treat analysis” and “intention-to-treat analysis”— ie, analyses “based on the treatment group to which [study participants] were randomized, rather than on which treatment they actually received and whether they completed the study.”6 Although both constructions are used, in light of the negative connotations of intent, “intention-to-treat” might be preferable.

The bottom line:

Intention and intent are often used interchangeably, and in many cases such usage is acceptable.

● However, although intention and intent both connote an attitude of resolve toward a contemplated action, intention is the weaker term, often suggesting mere ambition. Intent, on the other hand, suggests deliberate planning or the active application of the will to make an action come to pass.

● Although in medical contexts “intent-to-treat analysis” and “intention-to-treat analysis” are used interchangeably, given the negative connotations associated with intent, “intention-to-treat” might be preferable.—Phil Sefton, ELS

 

 

1. Ask the Editor: “Intent” and “Intention.” Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary website. http://www.learnersdictionary.com/blog.php?action=ViewBlogArticle&ba_id=78. Accessed September 10, 2013.

2. Intention, intent. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms. Springfield, MA; Merriam-Webster Inc; 1984:458.

3. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; 1991:861.

4. Intention or intent? Glossophilia website. http://www.glossophilia.org/?p=416. Accessed September 10, 2013.

5. Bernstein TM. The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage. New York, NY: Athaneum; 1985:240.

6. Iverson C, Christiansen S, Flanagin A, et al. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. 10th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2007:873.

December 4, 2013

Ex Libris: Dangerous Admissions

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 11:55 am
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How many of you have let your mind wander while editing that difficult genetics manuscript to imagine yourself in a whole new role? Of course, you’d never lose the skills that make you a diligent and gifted editor, but you’d put those skills to more glamorous use. Maybe you daydream of being a Nellie Bly–style reporter, going undercover to reveal corruption at insane asylums. Maybe a witty Nora Ephronesque screenwriter, penning romantic comedies to popular acclaim. Maybe even an adventuresome explorer such as Isabella Bird, chronicling her travels through the Sandwich Islands. If you are an editor prone to flights of fancy, then Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth by Jane O’Connor is the book for you.

Jane O’Connor, author of the popular children’s series Fancy Nancy, has created a heroine for editors who long for adventure—Miranda “Rannie” (rhymes with Annie) Bookman. Rannie has been fired from her job as executive managing editor at Simon and Schuster for approving a print run of 5000 copies of a collector’s edition of the first Nancy Drew book—The Secret of the Old Clock. The only problem is the missing lowercase “l” from the last word of the book title. Heads rolled, and Rannie was forced to roll out the door, thus beginning a less than satisfying career as a freelance editor.

As all freelancers know, you take work where and when you can get it. Rannie is editing a book on Josef Mengele, chief physician at Auschwitz, for $40 per hour and giving tours of her children’s exclusive private school, the Chapel School (Chaps), to make ends meet. She appreciates having the work, but she feels “untethered, superfluous, a forty-three-year-old dangling participle.” Rannie is a woman with a high IQ, a fertile imagination, and too much time on her hands. Therefore, when the (mostly) beloved director of college admissions, A. Lawrence Tutwiler (Mr Tut), is found dead in his office at Chaps and Rannie’s son Nate becomes a suspect, Rannie fills her spare time by investigating the murder.

Dangerous Admissions chronicles Rannie’s encounters with several murder suspects: Chaps student Olivia Werner and her troubled brother Grant, school bully Elliot Ross and his well-connected father David, English teacher Augusta Hollins, and new Chaps headmaster Jonathan Marshall. She encounters romance along the way with fellow Chaps parent Tim Butler. Traveling alongside Rannie as she unravels the mystery  of Mr Tut’s murder is a fast-paced and fun joyride, but for editors the real treat is how Rannie uses her editorial skills to successfully solve the mystery.

The novel is peppered with details that will engage any editor, freelance or full time. Rannie has a proofreader’s eye, quickly noticing misspellings on menus (“You think maybe I should tell them their menu offers ‘French fires’ and ‘dally specials’?”).  She can spot a verbal phrase dangler at 50 paces (“‘Growing up in California, New York was always my dream,’ he stated, Rannie mentally wincing. . . . New York hadn’t grown up in California, he had.”).  She has a mastery of those tricky “-ly” words, cringing at the misuse of the terms badly (“Bad. You felt bad. If you have a defective sense of touch, then you feel badly.”) and really (“A moment later Rannie stood, attempting to convince herself he wasn’t that attractive and taking note of his use of ‘real’ instead of ‘really’. . .). She even knows her who from her whom (“‘Whom shall I say is calling?’ ‘Who’ not ‘whom’ the grammar cop, never off duty, silently corrected.”). Even when she’s cornered by the killer, her mind flits to correcting his use of the word different (“‘Differently,’ her inner copy editor ludicrously insisted.”).  It’s these particulars that make the book such an enjoyable read for editors.

The only quibble I have is the few typos and usage errors that appear in the book. For example, the word psych is misspelled as pysche and psycho as pyscho. In addition, a character foregoes a cigarette rather than forgoes a cigarette. Normally, such minor errors could be easily overlooked, but in a story that hinges on the abilities of an eagle-eyed editor, these errors cause the reader to disengage. As Rannie herself says, “Hotshot editors with fat Rolodexes and expense accounts might dismiss proofreaders as punctuation-obsessed fussbudgets, gnashing their teeth over split infinitives. But reading was such a crazy process when you thought about it. At some point you stopped being aware that you were decoding squiggles printed in black ink on white paper. Suddenly you entered another world. It was all an illusion, and misspellings, inconsistencies, anachronisms, wrong dates—whatever—wrecked the illusion.”

It’s Rannie’s editorial eye and attention to detail that lead her to solve the mystery of Mr Tut’s murder. She does it all armed with only her swift mind and Col-Erase blue pencil. (And let me tell you, that blue pencil really comes in handy!) She’s a heroine all editors who’ve dreamed of adventure can get behind. So, if you’re looking for a distraction from that genetics manuscript, pick up a copy of Dangerous Admissions and let the daydreaming begin.—Laura King, MA, ELS

November 25, 2013

Non-Human Users of the Manual

Filed under: meta-blog — amastyleinsider @ 3:34 pm
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Okay, perhaps he’s not “using” the AMA Manual of Style, but he’s certainly looking very handsome near several editions of it! I’d say he was “gobbling” up style advice, but that might make you want to stab yourself in the eye with the Manual’s sharp corner. And yet I said it anyway. Happy Thanksgiving!

Connie does yoga in the office 03-02-11

This is Conrad, a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) befriended by Melissa L. Bogen, ELS. This is the second time we’ve featured a pet with the Manual. Should it become a theme?—Brenda Gregoline, ELS

November 19, 2013

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 3:37 pm
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Q: How do you create a “thin space” in Word?

A: In Word, use the shortcut to the ¼ em space character under Insert/Symbol/Special Characters. The Unicode value for the ¼ em space is 2005, and it’s in the General Punctuation section of any Unicode font. The 1/6 em space is also used as a thin space; the Unicode value for that is 2006, and it’s also in the General Punctuation section of any Unicode font.

Q: Is it necessary to include http:// in a URL? What about http://www.? I like to avoid long strings for URLs and if it’s OK to shorten them, that’s what I’d like to do. 

A: The http:// in the URL is only necessary in text to ensure that the reader knows that the information provided is a website. If that information is clear from the context without http://, it is not necessary. To know whether www is necessary or not, you should try the URL without it. Some URLs require the www, while others will not work if www is added. To ensure that the URL is correct, you should check it on the Internet.

Q: Can you please tell me how many journals use the AMA Manual of Style?  Does a list of these journals exist?

A: I don’t have the data you request…and I’d certainly be interested myself. I can tell you that we’ve  sold  almost 30,000 copies of the print book, in addition to site licenses and individual subscriptions to the online book. Although this doesn’t answer your question precisely, the number of copies sold might be of some help.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

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