September 28, 2011

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 1:21 pm
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Q: I thought AMA supported putting no space following a symbol such as > (eg, age <18) if, in the expression, the symbol is acting more as a modifier, not as an operator (eg, 3 < 4), in which case the symbol would have a space (AMA specifies a thin space).  If I’m mistaken, I need to make a mental adjustment.

A:  This is addressed in section 21.10.  We recommend thin spaces with such symbols as greater than, less than, equals, etc.  So, a small mental adjustment might be needed as we make no distinction between the 2 uses you describe.

Q: Is it true that AMA style no longer requires an expansion of CI (confidence interval) at first mention?

A: Yes, it’s true.  As of July 27, 2011, as announced on Twitter, we are no longer requiring that CI be expanded at first mention.  This is posted on the style manual Web site in “Updates to the Manual” and soon will have a special icon within the text to indicate that this material has been updated.

Q: Does AMA have a preferred format for telephone numbers?  How about international numbers?

A:   The manual does not address this question specifically (and perhaps it should).  However, if you look in section 25.11, you will see many examples (both from the United States and elsewhere) for presentation of telephone numbers.—Cheryl Iverson, MA


May 20, 2011

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions,punctuation,usage — amastyleinsider @ 2:00 pm
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Q:    When a bulleted list is introduced by a brief comment, eg, “The principal signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are as follows,” and all of the items in the bulleted list are from the same source, does a citation need to be placed at the end of each bulleted item or is it sufficient to place the citation at the end of the brief introductory comment?

A:    We would recommend placing the citation within the text that introduces the bulleted list if all the items in the list came from the same source.  If the items came from multiple sources, then placing the appropriate citation at the end of each item would be necessary.

Q:    In this example, would you hyphenate “well child”?

  • He was taken for a well-child [or well child] checkup.

A:    Yes, we would hyphenate in this case.

Q:    The Manual says nothing about how to treat reference citations in the abstract.  Should such citations simply be deleted from the abstract and from the reference list or should complete bibliographic details about the reference be inserted in the abstract parenthetically?

A:    You are quite right that the Manual does not mention how to treat references in the abstract as we never include reference citations (either as superscript numbers or within parentheses in the text) in the abstract (see 2.3, fourth bullet, re not citing references in an abstract).  If an author has included references in an abstract, it doesn’t seem advisable to delete the references altogether.  Discuss with the author trying to include the references early on in the manuscript itself.  It seems unlikely that an author would consider a reference important enough to include in the abstract and then not cite it in the text.

Q:   I don’t see anything in the Manual about how to style “e-mail,” ie, with or without a hyphen.  Help, please.

A:   Although the Manual doesn’t specifically address this point, it does include guidance on capping (see 10.7) and, in that section, it’s clear that the Manual recommends a hyphen in “e-mail.”  If you use the Manual online, for questions like this the “quick search” box is invaluable.  Just type the term you are looking for into the search box and the results should guide you.  If you had begun with “email,” you would have gotten no results, which would—I hope—have tipped you off to try “e-mail,” which produces 3 pages of results.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

May 5, 2011

Quiz Bowl: Units of Measure

Filed under: editing process,punctuation,quizzes,usage — amastyleinsider @ 11:10 am
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Welcome, participants, to the AMA Manual of Style Quiz Bowl. Every month at, we offer subscribers a quiz on different aspects of the manual that help participants master AMA style and improve their editing skills. Previous quizzes have covered topics as varied as correct and preferred usage, genetics, tables, figures, and ethics, as well as numerous other subjects. In this blog, we will offer a sample question from each month’s quiz to whet your appetite. This month’s quiz is on Units of Measure: Format, Style, and Punctuation. So, here goes.

Edit the following sentence based on your understanding of section 18.3 of the AMA Manual of Style.

A total of 50 mg of etanercept were administered subcutaneously twice weekly for 12 weeks.

Well, how did you do? Did you identify the problem? Here’s the answer (use your mouse to highlight the text box):

A total of 50 mg of etanercept was administered subcutaneously twice weekly for 12 weeks.

Units of measure are treated as collective singular (not plural) nouns and require a singular verb (§18.3.3, Subject-Verb Agreement, p 791 in print).

So, did you enjoy this tidbit? If you are not sated, subscribe to the AMA Manual of Style online and take the full quiz.—Laura King, MA, ELS

March 8, 2011


Filed under: punctuation — amastyleinsider @ 3:16 pm
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In everyday usage, apostrophe denotes the punctuation mark used to form the possessive case of nouns, to form possessive adjectives, to indicate the omission of one or more letters in a contraction, and to form plurals of such items as letters, signs, or symbols. Simple, yes? Apparently not. Incorrect use of this seemingly innocuous little jot has become rampant. For example, writers frequently confuse the contraction “it’s” with the possessive “its” — it seems that users of the apostrophe have lost sight of it’s proper use, and its so sad. Another example is when writers use the apostrophe to form the plural of a noun — a usage termed the greengrocer’s apostrophe, presumably owing to its prevalence at one time in grocery signage advertising sale prices on, for example, apple’s, banana’s, and orange’s. While the rise of edited, corporation-issued supermarket signage has rendered use of the greengrocer’s apostrophe more rare in that context than it once was, it now enjoys a wide popularity in other written materials, most noticeably in do-it-yourself advertising copy hawking everything from car’s to hot dog’s to stereo’s — a burgeoning phenomenon that has given rise to another term, apostrophitis.

Apart from this everyday denotation, apostrophe also denotes a rhetorical figure of speech in which a speaker or writer suddenly breaks off narration to direct speech elsewhere, often to exclaim or to convey heightened emotion — as, for example, when a driver conversing with a passenger suddenly breaks into an impassioned aside directed to a recalcitrant automobile, a pedestrian, or the driver of another vehicle. In its original usage, an apostrophe was directed to a person present. However, over time, the meaning has broadened to include speech directed to a person or persons either present, absent, or deceased; to a personified material object; or to an idea or other abstract quality. In poetry or narrative prose, an apostrophe often begins with the word “O”: “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, II.2); “O eloquent, just, and mighty Death!” (Sir Walter Raleigh, A Historie of the World). — Phil Sefton, ELS

See 8.7.2 (page 362 in the print book).

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