Reluctant, reticent

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  Synonyms are reserved, withdrawn, introverted, inhibited, diffident, shy, uncommunicative.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


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

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

Questions From Users of the Manual

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

When Worlds Collide

Hooray for grammar! AMA Style Insider was pleased and surprised to find our humble blog linked from the website of Midwestern singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Subjects, objects, Miley Cyrus, and AMA style—it’s all coming together.—Brenda Gregoline, ELS

Quiz Bowl: Sentence Structure

One of the challenges for medical editors is to synthesize a great deal of information into clear, readable prose. To accomplish this task, we often have to wade through a murky bog of confusing comparisons, run-on sentences, or large amounts of data. We must tread lightly so as not to distort the meaning of the text or the accuracy of the data, but tread we must.

This month’s style quiz gives users the opportunity to practice their editing skills in a more substantive manner. The quiz provides 6 examples of convoluted text that require a fine editorial hand. The following is one example from the quiz:

Adolescent participants (aged 13-17 years) were recruited from 9 pediatric and family medicine clinics located in 3 urban areas in Washington State in the Group Health system from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011, that were selected because of their greater patient diversity and higher number of adolescent patients.

Highlight for answer:

Adolescent participants (aged 13-17 years) were recruited from 9 pediatric and family medicine clinics in the Group Health system from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011. Clinics located in 3 urban areas in Washington State were selected for their greater patient diversity and higher number of adolescent patients.

Obviously, there are numerous ways to edit the original sentence. We provide just one example of many. Perhaps you found an even better way; if so, leave us a comment.

If you’re interested in more practice, check out the full quiz on the AMA Manual of Style website.—Laura King, MA, ELS


To pass the time between stylebook editions, the JAMA Network staff keep an in-house file of little tips, tricks, guidelines, and style changes that have occurred since the last time the manual was published. Here is a small peek inside that file—2 things from this past summer.

The terms multivariable and multivariate are not synonymous, as the entries in the Glossary of Statistical Terms suggest (Chapter 20.9, page 881 in the print). To be accurate, multivariable refers to multiple predictors (independent variables) for a single outcome (dependent variable). Multivariate refers to 1 or more independent variables for multiple outcomes. (This update was implemented June 1, 2014.)

Cross-section, as a verb or adjective should be capped in titles as Cross-section; cross section as a noun should be capped in titles as Cross Section. (This update was implemented August 4, 2014).—Brenda Gregoline, with help from John McFadden

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: I note in the manual that you do not require the use of the registered trademark symbol with brand names, as long as an initial capital letter is used (see 5.6.16, Use of Trademark Names in Publication).  Does this guideline apply to copy in medical books as well as medical journals?

A:  You are right that our manual does not encourage the use of the little “R” in a circle or the superscript TM to denote trademarks but rather relies on the initial cap to signify a trademark. As to what style would apply to books (medical or other), it really all comes down to what style the book publisher uses. The Chicago Manual of Style (section 8.152) states: “Although the symbols [cap R in a circle and superscript TM] for registered and unregistered trademarks, respectively) often accompany trademark names on product packaging and in promotional material, there is no legal requirement to use these symbols, and they should be omitted wherever possible.”

I think you would be fairly safe in zapping the symbol and just using the initial cap, unless the style guide you are following in editing a book dictates otherwise.

Q: What do you recommend re capitalization for something like the word “test” or “examination” or “questionnaire” in names of specific tests, examinations, or questionnaires?

A: Our style manual (section 10.3.8) advises the following regarding capping the “t” on “test” when it follows the name of a specific test. I would extrapolate from this to cover similar questions.

Tests.  The exact and complete titles of tests and subscales of tests should be capitalized.  The word test is not usually capitalized except when it is part of the official name of the test.  Always verify exact names of any tests with the author or with reference sources.

Examples where a cap would be correct include the Mini-Mental State Examination and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: My colleagues and I are debating the correctness of the following sentence:  If any of the side effects gets serious, contact the study doctor.

A: If you remove the words “of the” from your sentence, you will find the answer(s) readily apparent. If there is one side effect, you’d use the singular:  “If any side effect becomes serious….”  If there is more than one side effect, you’d use the plural:  If any side effects become serious….”

Q: Should “week” or “weeks” be used in the following sentences?

 The changes in serum creatinine remained stable from week/weeks 48 to 96.

Nausea typically develops between the fourth and sixth week/weeks of pregnancy.

A: We would suggest using “weeks” in both examples. It would, of course, not be incorrect to repeat “week,” eg, “…at week 48 and week 96,” but for efficiency you could use “…at weeks 48 and 96.”—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Quiz Bowl: Editing and Proofreading Marks

tr, swk, wf, lc.

No, the vowel keys haven’t fallen off my laptop keyboard. Those are just a few examples from this month’s quiz on editing and proofreading marks. Although most editing and proofreading are now performed electronically, corrections still sometimes need to be marked on printed manuscripts and typeset copy. Because of this, editors need to be able to identify and use correct editing and proofreading marks.

Although most editors are familiar with marks such as stet, for let it stand, and Au?, for author query, some of the other editing and proofreading marks can occasionally cause confusion. This month’s AMA Manual of Style quiz offers a sampling of these marks to test your knowledge.

Included in the quiz are the meanings of the vowelless list above: tr, swk, wf, lc.

Highlight for the meanings of these marks: tr, transpose; swk, set when known; wf, wrong font; lc, lowercase.

To test your knowledge of additional editing and proofreading marks, check out this month’s quiz at—Laura King, MA, ELS