Is it interferon-gamma or interferon-γ? Do we use kappa or κ free light chain? I don’t know—it’s all Greek to me! If you’re like me, you struggle with whether to use Greek words or letters. Test your knowledge on the usage of Greek letters vs words by selecting which italicized term is correct in the following sentence. For further explanation of the correct answer, refer to chapter 17 (pp 781-783 in print). Then check out this month’s quiz, which subscribers can find at http://www.amamanualofstyle.com/ for more questions.
An elevated serum alpha-fetoprotein or α-fetoprotein level before orthotopic liver transplantation is predictive of mortality after orthotopic liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma.
So, what do you think? Would you use alpha-fetoprotein or α-fetoprotein? Here’s the answer (use your mouse to highlight the text box):
An elevated serum α-fetoprotein level before orthotopic liver transplantation is predictive of mortality after orthotopic liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma.
The AMA Manual of Style recommends the use of Greek letters rather than spelled-out words, unless usage dictates otherwise. Consult Dorland’s and Stedman’s medical dictionaries for general terms. These sources may differ in the representation of terms, ie, α-fetoprotein (Stedman’s) and alpha fetoprotein (Dorland’s). If the Greek letter, rather than the word, is found in either of these sources for the item in question, use the letter in preference to the word (§17.1, Greek Letter vs Word, p 781 in print).
If you want to learn more about usage of Greek letters vs words, take the full quiz on the AMA Manual of Style online—Laura King, MA, ELS