February 19, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized,usage — amastyleinsider @ 2:35 pm

“Recognizing that the genetic contribution to health disparities is likely to be relatively limited is not the only reason to question the wisdom of promoting genetic research under the aegis of health disparities.”1

“In several examples published under the aegis of the [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality], the benefit side rests on the data from randomized controlled trials….”2

“[T]his definition and associated regulations have become de facto rules for US academic and other research institutions and are applied to any work done by their employees or under their aegis regardless of the source of funding.”3

While somewhat infrequently encountered in medical writing, aegis is occasionally used in content related to health policy, institutional oversight, or the conduct of research. It also is occasionally used to refer to a journal’s vouching for the validity of data or other findings published in its pages; when such validity is called into question, a journal may issue a full retraction or simply “withdraw aegis,” ie, issue a statement to the effect that the journal is no longer responsible for the data.4

In its original sense, aegis (Greek aigis [goatskin]) referred to the shield or protective cloak worn by Zeus or Athena in the myths of ancient Greece.5 In the centuries since, the word has by association come to be used idiomatically to indicate defense (“Feeling is the aegis of enthusiasts and fools.”6) or guidance or influence (“They made their valuable individual contributions, but under the Ellington aegis they found themselves constantly enriched musically.”6). Similarly, the word is perhaps most often used in the construction “under the aegis of” to express patronage or sponsorship (“under the aegis of the museum”) and, especially, protection (“a child whose welfare is now under the aegis of the courts”).5

All of which is perfectly comforting. However, the classical roots of the word are far less benign. Whereas aegis-like shields appear in Egyptian, Nubian, and Norse mythology and art,7,8 the most elaborate account of the origins and attributes of the aegis comes, as suggested above, from the narratives of ancient Greek mythology and literature, in which it is consistently depicted as an object possessing fearsome supernatural power.

In one such narrative, the goat deity Amaltheia suckles the infant Zeus, who then—in the curiously detached manner so frequently encountered in mythological accounts—breaks off her horns and flays her hide. From one of her horns Zeus fashions the cornucopia, or horn of plenty; from her hide, he fashions the shield or cloak that would come to be called the aegis, which he then wears, on the counsel of an oracle, into battle against the marauding Titans.9 However, in the hands of Zeus, king of the gods, the aegis is more than a protective device; when in his wrath he shakes the aegis from his perch atop Mount Olympus, thunder crashes, bolts of lightning slash the sky, and fierce storms devastate the land.10 Moreover, in the Iliad, Homer describes the device as the “tempestuous terrible aegis, shaggy [and] conspicuous… given to Zeus to the terror of mortals.”11

But the aegis is associated with deities other than Zeus. In the Iliad, for example, Zeus lends the aegis to Apollo, who wields it to push his enemies back to their ships12; in other accounts, Zeus lends the aegis to his daughter, Athena, goddess of war,12 or presents it to Athena after his conquest of the Titans.9 In the most colorful account, Zeus swallows his wife, Metis, whole—after which Athena is born from Zeus’ head, emerging fully formed and bearing the aegis and other weapons of war.13 Regardless of how Athena comes to possess the aegis, however, in her hands it becomes more formidable still. For example, in the Iliad Homer reverently describes the aegis as no mere goatskin but rather as “ageless and immortal,” worn by “bright-eyed Athene” and adorned with tassels of the purest gold12; moreover, elsewhere in the Iliad he describes the aegis as a dramatic golden cloak fashioned by Hephaistos, god of fire and metalwork,14 to resemble a scaly skin like that of a snake, linked and fringed with writhing serpents, and bearing in its center the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa, eyes rolling and scalp also bristling with serpents.11

Charming as this may be, given the provenance of the word and the fell associations that come with it, how did aegis, apart from its military associations, come to be used to express defense or protection? Perhaps more puzzling, how did it come to be used to express benevolent guidance, influence, or patronage? A possible clue is that whereas early accounts often depict Athena as cultivated, civilized, urbane, and wise, the economy of ancient Greece was bolstered by military pursuits, and in short order Athena came to be depicted as the goddess of war—although, importantly, her military might was tempered by the cultivation and divine wisdom earlier attributed to her.15 Thus, Athena is sometimes viewed as having 2 sides. The first is characterized as wrathful, tempestuous, and destructive; however, the other is characterized as divinely beneficent and endowed with the inclination and ability to grant the gifts of aid, wisdom, and protection to favored mortals.16 The power of both sides is wielded through the supernatural power of the aegis—hence Homer’s description of the device in the Iliad and its depiction in visual art as inky black or brilliant gold.11,12,16

Interestingly, however, while Athena extends divine beneficence and protection—backed by the wrathfulness also attributed to her—she does not authorize those mortals fortunate enough to come under her favor to act on her behalf. Thus, whereas in current usage aegis is correctly used to express defense, protection, guidance, influence, patronage, or sponsorship, its use to indicate “under the jurisdiction of” is considered incorrect.17Phil Sefton, ELS

1. Sankar P, Cho MK, Condit CM, et al. Genetic research and health disparities. JAMA. 2004;291(24):2985-2989.

2. Vandenbroucke JP, Psaty BM. Benefits and risks of drug treatments: how to combine the best evidence on benefits with the best data about adverse effects. JAMA. 2008;300(2):2417-2419.

3. 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; 2007:157.

4. Hammerschmidt DE, Franklin M. The limits and power of peer review. Minn Med. June 2006. Accessed February 13, 2013.

5. Aegis. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc; 2003:19.

6. Aegis. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; 1991:22.

7. Aegis: in Egyptian and Nubian mythology. Museum of Learning Web site. Accessed February 15, 2011. 8. Aegis: in Norse mythology. Museum of Learning Web site. Accessed February 15, 2011.

9. Amaltheia. Theoi Project Web site. Accessed February 13, 2013.

10. Zeus. Theoi Project website. Accessed February 13, 2013.

11. Hephaistos Works 2. Theoi Greek Mythology Web site. Accessed February 13, 2013.

12. Teleporter: aegis mound. Entropia Planets Web site. Accessed February 13, 2013.

13. Athena. Theoi Project Web site. Accessed February 13, 2013.

14. Hephaistos. Theoi Project Web site. Accessed February 13, 2013.

15. Athena. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed February 13, 2013.

16. Deacy S, Villing A. What was the colour of Athena’s aegis? J Hellenic Stud. 2009;129:111-129. Accessed February 13, 2013.

17. Bernstein TM. The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage. New York, NY: Athaneum; 1985:29.

February 11, 2013

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: Uncategorized — amastyleinsider @ 10:00 am

Q: What is the difference between “percent” and “percentage”?

A: We regard “percent” as being a unit (equivalent to “kilograms”) and “percentage” as being a description of something that is measured in percent (equivalent to “weight”). As a rule of thumb, this would mean that “percent” (or the percent sign) would usually be used after a number: “In 10% of participants…” When discussing these values more broadly, “percentage” would be appropriate: “The percentages in Table 4 are from the study results in 2007.”

Q: When a percentage is associated with a drug, does it belong before the drug name or after it? The examples used in sections 15.4.9 and 15.4.10 seem to contradict each other.

A: Typically, the percentage would follow the drug name, as described in section 15.4.10: metronidazole lotion, 0.75%. The example in section 15.4.9 is slightly different as it describes the percentages of the components in a single product: “an artificial tear product containing 0.42% hydroxyethylcellulose and 1.67% povidone.”

Q: The 10th edition refers to both “press release” and “news release.” Are these used interchangeably or is there a distinction?

A: We consider these interchangeable terms, but in the next edition we may use “news release” exclusively because information is distributed well beyond print media.

Q: Do you drop the periods in the abbreviation LLC (limited liability company)? I see that you recommend dropping the period after Co (company) and Inc (incorporated) and wondered if this would be treated similarly.

A: Yes.

Q: Your manual (p 342) recommends that a colon not be used after because or forms of the verb include. Does this recommendation include situations in which the word include precedes a bulleted list?

A: Yes, it would be applicable whether the copy that follows the verb include precedes a bulleted list or run-in text. The key is that a verb should not be separated from its object or predicate nominative. For example, we would recommend the following:

There are many treatments for skin irritation. The treatment prescribed may include creams, sprays, and gels.

There are many treatments for skin irritation. The treatment prescribed may include

  • creams
  • sprays
  • gels

Another option would be the following:

There are many treatments for skin irritation: creams, sprays, gels.

—Cheryl Iverson, MA

January 23, 2013

Emergency, Emergent, Urgent

Filed under: usage — amastyleinsider @ 2:46 pm

As I was editing a manuscript on patients undergoing surgery for brain tumors, I came across the sentence, “Patients who required emergency care were admitted to the hospital and classified as needing emergent or urgent surgery.” As I reread the sentence, the terms emergency, emergent, and urgent started to swim before my eyes, each backstroking to take the place of the other. Soon I was reading, “Patients who required urgent care were admitted to the hospital and classified as needing emergency or emergent surgery.” And then, “Patients who required emergent care were admitted to the hospital and classified as needing emergency or urgent surgery.” What was going on? Was my late-night habit of perusing stylebooks and usage guides before bedtime starting to produce side effects (oops, I mean adverse effects)? Was I no longer able to delineate the difference between commonly used medical terms? I had to take action.

Diligent medical copy editor that I am, I turned to my bookshelf, which is chock full of dictionaries and grammar, usage, and editing books. Now I would be able to solve this conundrum. I would take this problem step by step, or rather word by word, and find the resolution. Here’s what I found:


Stedman’s Medical Dictionary1 defines emergency as “an unexpected development or happening; a sudden need for action.”

Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary2 defines emergency as “an unlooked for or sudden occurrence, often dangerous, such as an accident or an urgent or pressing need.”

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary3 defines emergency as “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.”

Consensus! There’s nothing a copy editor likes better.

Resolution: An emergency is basically an unexpected event that requires immediate action.


Dorland’s defines emergent first as “pertaining to an emergency” and second as “coming into being through consecutive stages of development, as in emergent evolution.”

Stedman’s omits the definition stemming from the term emergency and defines emergent first as “arising suddenly and unexpectedly, calling for quick judgment and prompt action” and second as “coming out; leaving a cavity or other part.”

Merriam-Webster’s defines emergent as “arising unexpectedly” or “calling for prompt action.”

This one’s a little trickier. Dorland’s relates the term emergent to emergency and Stedman’s and Webster’s simply define emergent as the adjectival form of the noun emergency. So, is there a difference between these 2 words or are they synonymous? It was time to reach deeper into my bookshelf.

I first turned to the classic text A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler.4 I knew Fowler wouldn’t let me down. Fowler’s entry on emergence and emergency reads as follows, “The two are now completely differentiated, -ce meaning emerging or coming into notice, and -cy meaning a juncture that has arisen, especially one that calls for prompt measures.”

After some additional research, I found this entry in Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians5: “The error of considering ‘emergent’ to be the adjectival form of ‘emergency’ is common only in medical writing, but it is becoming widespread. ‘Emergent’ properly means ‘emerging’ and normally refers to events that are just beginning—barely noticeable rather than catastrophic. ‘Emergency’ is an adjective as well as a noun, so rather than writing ‘emergent care,’ use the homely ‘emergency care.’”

Eureka! Emergent means beginning to arise and emergency means arising unexpectedly.

Resolution: Use emergent to mean emerging (as in Dorland’s section definition of “coming into being through consecutive stages of development, as in emergent evolution”) and emergency to mean an unexpected event that calls for immediate attention.

But then what about urgent?


Neither Dorland’s nor Stedman’s defines the term urgent.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines urgent as “calling for immediate action.”

So, can urgent and emergency be used interchangeably? The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website provides a list of surgery types. It groups urgent or emergency surgery and defines it as surgery “done in response to an urgent medical need, such as the correction of a life-threatening congenital heart malformation or the repair of injured internal organs after an automobile accident.”6 However, the website states, “There is major difference between elective, urgent, emergency surgery. In urgent surgery we can wait until the patient’s health is unwavering but it has to be performed in 1-2 days. But emergency surgery needs to be performed without any impediment otherwise there will be colossal risk to patient’s life.”7

Therefore, in medical editing, be careful of changing emergency to urgent because emergency means immediate attention is required and urgent indicates quick but not immediate action is required. There is no such thing as emergent surgery unless you mean surgery that is just beginning.

Resolution: Although emergent and urgent both indicate calls for swift action, urgent is more, well, urgent.

Well, there you have it. I guess that original sentence I was editing makes sense after all. “Patients who required emergency surgery [immediate surgery because of the unforeseen nature of the incident] were admitted to the hospital and classified as needing emergent [with a few hours] or urgent [within 24 hours] care.”— Laura King, MA, ELS (January 2013)

1. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. 26th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins; 1995.

2. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 32nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.

3. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc; 2003.

4. Fowler HW. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. 2nd ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; 1965.

5. Brians P. Common Errors in English Usage. 2nd ed. Sherwood, OR: Williams James & Co; 2008.

6. The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website. Types of Surgery. Accessed January 10, 2013.

7. Accessed January 10, 2013.

January 17, 2013

Quiz Bowl: Creating Tables and Figures

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 6:57 am
Tags: , ,

Have you ever been editing and suddenly experienced déjà-vu? You know, that feeling that you’ve read the material before. And I don’t mean several weeks or even days ago. I mean really recently. Don’t worry. You’re probably not suffering from posttraumatic editing syndrome. Often authors duplicate material by presenting it in both table and text forms. This is a no-no. As the AMA Manual of Style states, “The same data usually should not be duplicated in a table and a figure or in the text” (§4, Visual Presentation of Data, p 81 in print). Of course, some overlap is to be expected, but extensive duplication of data in tables and text is a waste of space and the reader’s time.

This month’s style quiz on creating tables and figures asks the user to create a figure and a table from text. There are only 2 exercises, so I’m not going to give 1 away here. Instead, here’s a bonus exercise for you to try.

Directions: Use the information in the following paragraph to create a table that can replace the text. Refer to section 4.1 of the AMA Manual of Style.

In a multivariable model of communication attributes associated with parental peace of mind (controlled for diagnostic category, time since diagnosis, child’s age, parent’s education, parent’s race/ethnicity, physician-rated prognosis, and degree of discrepancy between parent-rated and physician-rated prognosis; adjusted for clustering by physician), the odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) were as follows: 2.05 (1.14-3.70) for parent recalled receiving more extensive prognostic disclosure, 2.54 (1.11-5.79) for parent rated information received as high quality, and 6.65 (1.47-30.02) for parent had a greater sense of trust in physician.

Now, of course, there are several ways to reformat this sentence into a table, but here’s what we published (it was table 4 in this article). (Click for bigness.)


If you want more experience reformatting text into tables or figures, take this month’s quiz at www.amamanualofstyle.comLaura King, MA, ELS

January 8, 2013

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 2:03 pm
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Last month’s Ex Libris column reviewed Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, the first in a series of 4 titles in the 101 Words series by Grammar Girl alter ego Mignon Fogarty ( This month’s column reviews Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know. Just as Grammar Girl soared to the aid of grammarians in their quest to avoid misusing commonly confused words, so too does she come to the rescue of recent high school graduates (and those not so recent graduates) who want to appear educated and erudite. As Fogarty writes in her introduction, “You may or may not have been taught these words in high school, but they’ll serve you well from here on out. Use them in your college entrance essays or during job interviews to show that you’re well-read and well-spoken.”

Although this book could easily have become 1001 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know, Fogarty wisely narrows her list to 4 to 6 words from each letter of the alphabet from a variety of disciplines (eg, politics, science, and economics). As with 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know is a fun-to-read and easy-to-use paperback that is formatted as a glossary, with words arranged alphabetically and most entries only 1-page long. Each entry includes a quotation illustrating the correct usage of the word in question from such historical and cultural icons as Harry Truman, Andy Warhol, and Homer Simpson. For example, in the entry on Tenacious, Fogarty quotes the Belgian philosopher Paul De Man, “Metaphors are much more tenacious than facts.”

For users of the AMA Manual of Style, a few entries are particularly useful because they directly relate to the guidelines outlined in the manual ( For the term chronic, Fogarty writes, “In medicine, the opposite of a chronic disease (something that comes on slowly and will progress over a long time) is an acute disease (something that comes on suddenly, is severe, and is likely to end). For example, type II diabetes is a chronic condition and a stroke is an acute condition.” This supports the entry from the AMA Manual of Style, which states that the terms acute and chronic “are most often preferred for descriptions of symptoms, conditions, or diseases; they refer to duration, not severity.”

For the term malignant, Fogarty writes, “Malignant diseases and situations are aggressive, out of control, and dangerous. In medicine, only malignant tumors are called cancer; less invasive tumors are called benign.” In the AMA Manual of Style, the usage note for malignant reads, “When referring to a specific tumor, use malignant neoplasm or malignant tumor rather than malignancy. Malignancy refers to the quality of being malignant.”

Fogarty also defines the term correlation and provides the useful tip, “A common scientific phrase is correlation does not equal causation—a reminder that studies often find that events happen at the same time without proving that one causes the other.” This is similar to the AMA Manual of Style’s definition of the term correlation as the “description of the strength of an association among 2 or more variables, each of which has been sampled by means of a representative or naturalistic method from a population of interest. … There are many reasons why 2 variables may be correlated, and thus correlation alone does not prove causation.”

Finally, both Fogarty and the AMA Manual of Style describe the difference between the terms quantitative and qualitative. Fogarty writes, “People often confuse quantitative and qualitative, in part because qualitative results can be presented in ways that makes them look quantitative, for example, when researchers ask qualitative questions, but have subjects answer on numerical scales: How happy were you to see the dolphins? Answer on a scale from 1 to 10.” According to the AMA Manual of Style, qualitative data is “data that fit into discrete categories according to their attributes, such as nominal or ordinal data, as opposed to quantitative data,” which is “data in numerical quantities such as continuous data or counts (as opposed to qualitative data).”

Although Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know was written with a general audience in mind, much can be gained by the medical editor reader. Not only the entries on specific medical words but also the entries on general terms commonly encountered in scientific writing, such as ad hoc, epitome, jargon, kilometer, and mandate, are helpful for the editor.—Laura King, MA, ELS

December 18, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 2:53 pm
Tags: , ,

Q: I have a question about biologic vs biological and physiologic and physiological. How do I know which version to use?

A: It may have been “hidden,” but the tricky “-ic/-ical” question is addressed in the manual on  page 396 (section 11.1). This section specifically addresses biologic/biological and physiologic/physiological, 2 pairs of words where the different endings may have a different meaning.

Q: In section 8.3.1, why do you show a hyphen in “The rash was a treatment-related adverse event.” but not in “The adverse event was treatement related.”?

A: The policy of hyphenating a compound when it  precedes the noun it modifies but not when it follows comes up in many examples in the Hyphens section of the manual. The rationale for this policy is based on easier comprehension. Much may precede and modify a noun. The use of hyphenation (as in “treatment-related adverse event”) helps make the relationships of the words that precede the noun clearer and easier for a reader to understand. In the case in which this word string follows the noun, the hyphenation is not required for easier understanding (“The adverse event was treatment related.”) You see this same logic in so many places:

It was a 5-cm distance.

The distance was 5 cm.

He was a well-known author.

The author was well known.

Q: Would it be acceptable to use as a way to shorten URLs in references in a scientific article’s reference list?

A: Using to shorten URLs in the reference list for a scientific article is probably not consistent with best practices. We do use in our style manual tweets, to save space, but the reference list of a scientific article is a different matter. Use of the full URL allows readers to know the original domain name (like We are also not sure how permanently stable a shortened link would be.

NOTE:  The person who inquired noted:  “Regarding shortened URLs and transparency, there is one bright spot for people citing US government publications. The government created its own vanity domain,”—Cheryl Iverson, MA


December 12, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 12:40 pm
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Q: Does the change of footnote symbols from asterisk, dagger, etc (9th edition) to superscript lowercase letters (10th edition) apply not only to tables but also to the title page?

A: No, this change does not apply to the title page. Typically, the only footnotes used on the title page would be the “death dagger” (see section 2.3.2) and the asterisk at the end of the byline if the byline is the name of the group, not all members of which qualify for authorship (see p 15, bottom).

Q: In your information on databases, the link you provide for HUGO no longer links. Do you have the new URL?

A: Yes, since publication of the 10th edition of the manual, the URL for HUGO has changed. The new URL is We have included this in a new batch of errata posted on the companion website in January 2008 and it will be corrected in the third printing.

Q: In medical writing, is it preferred to spell naive with or without the umlaut over the i?

A: We would follow the latest edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. The 11th edition shows that both spellings are equally correct but, in such cases, to maintain uniformity among all the articles in our family of journals, we arbitrarily select the first spelling given: naive. Also, in the 10th edition of our manual (p 422), it indicates that “in general, English words in common usage should be spelled without the diacritical marks.”—Cheryl L. Iverson, MA

December 6, 2012

Quiz Bowl: Intellectual Property

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 2:59 pm
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Whenever I see the words intellectual property, I think of David Letterman. Remember when he left NBC for CBS, thus inciting an intellectual property firestorm? NBC claimed intellectual property rights on much of Letterman’s material, including Stupid Pet Tricks and the Top 10 List. The controversy even caused the fictional demise of Larry “Bud” Melman (also considered the intellectual property of NBC), although the actor who played the character of Larry “Bud” Melman (Calvert DeForest) continued with Letterman at CBS until he retired in 2002. Much comic fodder was made of this intellectual property brouhaha, mostly by Letterman himself. However, in publishing circles, intellectual property is serious business.

So, what exactly is intellectual property? The AMA Manual of Style writes,

Intellectual property is a legal term for that which results from the creative efforts of the mind (intellectual) and that which can be owned, possessed, and subject to competing claims (property). Three legal doctrines governing intellectual property are relevant for authors, editors, and publishers in biomedical publishing: copyright (the law protecting authorship and publication), patent (the law protecting invention and technology), and trademark (the law protecting words and symbols used to identify goods and services in the marketplace).

This month’s AMA Manual of Style quiz offers multiple-choice questions on intellectual property. Test your knowledge by responding to the following question from this month’s quiz:

A scientist develops data while working at Harvard University. He then moves to Stanford University, where he publishes an article using the original data in JAMA. Who owns the data?

  1. Harvard University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Scientist
  4. JAMA

What do you think? Do the data belong to the scientist, one of the academic institutions, or the publishing journal? Use your mouse to highlight the text box for the answer:

Harvard University

In scientific research, 3 primary arenas exist for ownership of data: the government, the commercial sector, and academic or private institutions or foundations. Although an infrequent occurrence, when data are developed by a scientist without a relationship to a government agency, a commercial entity, or an academic institution, the data are owned by that scientist. Any information produced by an office or employee of the a government agency in the course of his or her employment is owned by the government. Data produced by employees in the commercial sector (eg, a pharmaceutical, device, or biotechnology company, health insurance company, or for-profit hospital or managed care organization) are most often governed by the legal relationship between the employee and the commercial employer, granting all rights of data ownership and control to the employer. According to guidelines established by Harvard University in 1988 and subsequently adopted by other US academic institutions, data developed by employees of academic institutions are owned by the institutions (§5.6.1, Ownership and Control of Data, pp 179-183 in print).

So, when Letterman packed his bags and moved to CBS, he was legally required to leave some of his property behind because it was owned by NBC. Similarly, when authors leave their academic institutions, they are usually required to relinquish the results of the work they performed during their employment.—Laura King, MA, ELS

November 27, 2012

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 2:50 pm

Up in the sky—look! It’s a giant bird! It’s a plane! It’s GRAMMAR GIRL!

Just as Superman flies to the rescue of the hapless citizens of Metropolis, Grammar Girl comes to the aid of the needy denizens of Grammarville. Have you met Grammar Girl yet? She’s part of a superhero team of experts from the Quick and Dirty Tips website. There’s Mighty Mommy, who offers practical parenting tips; the Math Dude, who strives to make math easier; the Nutrition Diva, who teaches you how to eat well and feel fabulous; and the Get-it-Done Guy, who offers tips on how to work less and do more. There are others in this Quick and Dirty Tips league, but I have to admit that Grammar Girl is my favorite. She fights the good grammar fight in a genial and humorous manner. She’s not brooding and aloof like Batman or flashy and self-satisfied like Wonder Woman. As her website states, “Her arch enemy is the evil Grammar Maven who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful.”

I have to admit that Grammar Girl has come to my rescue on numerous occasions. As an editor and teacher of editing, I often encounter grammatical conundrums. However, whenever I’m in a perilous grammatical situation, all I have to do is turn to Grammar Girl for help. She hasn’t let me down yet.

Just as Batman is really Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman is really Diana Prince, Grammar Girl’s true identity is Mignon Fogarty. Ms Fogarty is a former magazine and technical writer and the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network. She has a BA in English from the University of Washington and an MS in biology from Stanford University. Her weekly podcasts strive to help editors and writers communicate better. The top 5 tips listed on the website are as follows:

  1. Affect Versus Effect
  2. Why We Have Both “Color” and “Colour”
  3. First, Second, and Third Person
  4. Who Versus Whom
  5. Lay Versus Lie

Because I’ve relied on the Grammar Girl podcasts for several years how, I decided to check out some of Ms Fogarty’s published books as well. (I know, how “old school.”)

Her first audiobook, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing, was published in 2007 and was named 1 of the top 5 audiobooks of that year by iTunes. In July 2008, Fogarty’s first paperback book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, was published and hit the bestseller list in August 2008. Her second paperback book, The Grammar Devotional, was published in October 2009. In July 2011, Grammar Girl Presents the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students was released. Also in July 2011, St Martin’s Press released the first 2 books in a series of 4 books (so far) in the Grammar Girl’s 101 series: Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know and Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, which were followed by Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart (in November 2011) and Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time (July 2012). It was this 101 series that caught my eye.

This first entry in the AMA Style Insider Ex Libris column deals with Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, with subsequent Ex Libris columns addressing the other 3 titles in the series. 101 Misused Words is an engaging, easy-to-use paperback book that deals with commonly confused words. The book is formatted as a glossary, with words arranged alphabetically and most entries only 1 page long. Most entries conclude with a Quick and Dirty Tip on usage. For example, for the entry on Foreword versus Forward, the Quick and Dirty Tip states, “Books contain words, and the spelling of the type of foreword you see in books ends with word.” Interspersed on the pages are literary, film, and pop culture quotations containing the words in question. For example, in the entry on Peak versus Peek versus Pique, Fogarty quotes Bruce Willis as John McClane from Die Hard 2: “Hey, well, as far as I’m concerned, progress peaked with frozen pizza.” The book is filled with these amusing quotations, making it not only a useful tool but also an enjoyable read.

There are a number of entries that support the guidelines outlined in the AMA Manual of Style and the style quizzes posted on the style manual’s website. For example, the following terms addressed by Fogarty are also addressed in the Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases section of the AMA Manual of Style: Affect versus Effect, Because Of versus Due To, Compose versus Comprise, e.g. versus i.e., Fewer versus Less, Historic versus Historical, Imply versus Infer, and Regime versus Regimen versus Regiment. In addition, a recent style quiz on the AMA Manual of Style website supports Fogarty’s entry on A versus An.

Overall, you don’t have to be a superhero to use Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again. It is an accessible, witty, useful book for anyone who needs to be rescued from those common grammar quandaries we so often encounter.—Laura King, MA, ELS

November 16, 2012

Split Infinitives

Filed under: grammar — amastyleinsider @ 11:21 am
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Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive [expletive deleted], I split it so it will stay split….—Raymond Chandler1

The proscription against splitting infinitives—the insertion of one or more words between the particle to and the bare verb2 (eg, to really try, to quickly go)—dates from the early 19th century, when an 1834 magazine article fired perhaps the first shot in the war against the construction.3 Other observers such as Henry Alford (A Plea for the Queen’s English [1864])4 quickly followed suit, and soon a full-blown battle was afoot. The timing of all of this is not surprising, given the affection of the Victorian era for Latin,4 a language in which the infinitive cannot be split because it is a single word.5,6

It should be noted, however, that writers of English have been making free use of the split infinitive since the 14th century3 and that “Noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Daniel Defoe, George Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Wordsworth, and Willa Cather”6—and Raymond Chandler, who once took the admirably firm stance noted above.1 Moreover, the split infinitive has enjoyed renewed support since at least the 1930s, and many authorities now agree with Sterling Leonard, who in 1932 wrote that “The evidence in favor of the judiciously split infinitive is sufficiently clear to make it obvious that teachers who condemn it are wasting their time and that of their pupils.”7 Part of the reason for the support is that because the particle to is not truly part of the infinitive, technically “there’s nothing to split.”4 Furthermore, a split infinitive sounds natural because in English, the best place for an adverb… is right in front of the word it describes.”4

However, some discretion is necessary. Some split infinitives are acceptable because the adverb will not make sense anywhere else in the sentence. Others simply sound better owing to the rise and fall of accented syllables (consider, for example, perhaps the most famous split infinitive of all time—Star Trek’s “To boldly go where no man has gone before….”).2,3,7 Still others are acceptable on the grounds that unsplitting them would result in an awkward construction or, worse, change the sense altogether7—consider, for example, the different meanings of “I want to live simply,” “I simply want to live,” and “I want to simply live.”8

This is not to say that all infinitives can or should be split. Given the lingering wariness toward the construction, avoiding splits is advisable when writing for unfamiliar audiences or for those known to favor the proscription; in such cases, if “a split is easily fixed by putting the adverb at the end of the phrase and the meaning remains the same, then avoiding the split is the best course.”7 Also, writers should carefully assess splits involving the insertion of 2 or more words between the particle and the bare verb to ensure that the intended meaning is not changed or simply obscured by a list of adverbs. Last, writers should also take special care to avoid ambiguity that can arise when only the first infinitive in a series of infinitives contains the particle, because it can be unclear whether the adverb modifies only the first infinitive or all of the infinitives in the series.7

The bottom line:

● Splitting infinitives is not incorrect—but deciding whether to split is a matter of having “a good ear and a keen eye.”7

● Whenever possible, take into account the perceived tastes of the audience—and always take into account the rhythm and sound of the construction, the number of adverbs in use, and any ambiguity that might result from placement of the adverb(s).

● Recasting a sentence to avoid using an infinitive altogether is always an option.

● If it seems that splitting is justifiable, by all means go for it—and know that you are in good company.—Phil Sefton, ELS

1. Chandler R. Letter to Atlantic Monthly editor Edward Weeks. website. January 18, 1948. Accessed November 8, 2012.

2. Fogarty M. Quick and Dirty Tips: Split Infinitives. Grammar Girl website. Accessed October 9, 2012.

3. Nordquist R. Grammar & Composition: Split Infinitive. website. Accessed October 9, 2012.

4. O’Conner PT. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Riverhead Books; 2009:210-213.

5. 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; 2007:322.

6. Split Infinitive. website. Accessed October 9, 2012.

7. Garner BA. The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2000:314-315.

8. Maddox M. What Is a Split Infinitive? DailyWritingTips website. Accessed November 8, 2012.

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