May 27, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Editing and Proofreading Marks

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 10:41 am
Tags: , ,

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

April 21, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Editing Prose

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 10:39 am
Tags: , ,

You asked and we listened! This month’s style quiz once again gives users the chance to practice their editing skills in a more in-depth manner. Previous quizzes on prose editing, as well as editing figures and tables, aimed to fill this need, but you still want more. So, here you go.

This month’s quiz is a full paragraph that requires editing to eliminate usage and style errors. Below is the first sentence of the paragraph. See if you can identify the problems.

We report a young patient who presented with dysphagia caused by a right aortic arch, aberrant left subclavian artery, and associated Kommerell’s diverticulum.

Highlight for answer:  We describe a young patient who presented with dysphagia caused by a right aortic arch, aberrant left subclavian artery, and associated Kommerell diverticulum.

According to the AMA Manual of Style, both patients and cases are described; only cases are reported (§11.1, Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases, pp 381-405 in print). In addition, the nonpossessive form should be used for eponymous terms (§16.2, Nonpossessive Form, pp 778-780 in print).

If you’re interested in more practice, check out the full quiz, as well as the Prose Editing 1, Practice Editing Tables, and Figures quizzes, on the AMA Manual of Style website.

And if there are any other quizzes you want to see, just ask. We promise we’ll listen.—Laura King, MA, ELS

January 29, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Comma

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 1:37 pm
Tags: ,

“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—Laura King, MA, ELS

January 9, 2014

Quiz Bowl: Forward Slash

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 9:56 am
Tags: ,


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 provides more guidance on the formidable forward slash.—Laura King, MA, ELS

September 17, 2013

Quiz Bowl: Radiology Terms

Filed under: quizzes,radiology — amastyleinsider @ 10:46 am
Tags: , ,

Do you know the difference between TE and TR? How about section and slice? And what exactly is an echo train? That’s right, this month we’re talking about radiology!

The AMA Manual of Style has a brief but informative section on radiology terms (§15.7.2). The section defines terms commonly used in radiology literature and offers instruction on how to use these terms correctly. Some of the terms addressed in the section are b value, k-space, echo time, and repetition time. The style quiz is a sample paragraph that contains commonly used radiology terms.

See if you can identify the problem(s) in the following sentences from this month’s quiz:

Twenty-four contiguous slices, each 2 mm thick, were acquired in an interleaved fashion. Radiologic slices were then examined for consistency of the hippocampal subfields from patient to patient.

Use your mouse to highlight the text box for the answer:

Twenty-four contiguous slices, each 2 mm thick, were acquired in an interleaved fashion. Radiologic sections were then examined for consistency of the hippocampal subfields from patient to patient.

The term section should be used to refer to a radiological image and slice to refer to a slice of tissue (eg, for histological examination).

That’s just a “slice” of what we have to offer in this month’s quiz. If you’re a subscriber, check out the complete quiz at—Laura King, MA, ELS

August 21, 2013

Quiz Bowl: Practice Editing Tables

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 2:02 pm
Tags: , ,

During the past 15 years I have been teaching classes in medical editing. Every year I hear the same question from my students: “How can we practice our editing skills?” It’s a difficult question to answer because usually editors learn their skills on the job. But what do you do if you’re trying to break into the editorial field or have moved from, say, an editorial assistant position to a manuscript editor position? This month’s quiz, entitled Practice Editing Tables, is a first step in helping editors gain editing practice. I have focused on editing tables in this quiz because this is often one of the most challenging tasks for both novice and seasoned editors to master.

Basically, this month’s style quiz is simply to edit a table. Therefore, we have no sample question for you to try. Instead, here’s a general question about tables for you to answer.

Formal tables in scientific articles conventionally contain 5 major elements. Can you name these 5 major elements? (Use your mouse to highlight the text box.)

title, column headings, stubs (row headings), body (data field) consisting of individual cells (data points), and footnotes

Each of these elements has various style and formatting recommendations that are described in detail in the AMA Manual of Style (§4.1.3).

As we continue to post more AMA Manual of Style quizzes on the website, we will strive to provide editors with an opportunity to practice their skills. If you are interested in more practice with tables, check out the Tables Quiz and the Creating Tables and Figures Quiz at—Laura King, MA, ELS

March 12, 2013

Quiz Bowl: Author-Editor Relationship

Filed under: editing process,quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 3:06 pm
Tags: , ,

There have been some famous, even notorious, author-editor relationships: Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish. This month’s quiz takes us on a tour of some of these fruitful and fractious relationships as a means of exploring effective ways for editors to handle issues with authors. The following is an example from this month’s quiz.

Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, notoriously and wittily disdained editors. In a 1967 interview in The Paris Review, he said, “By ‘editor’ I suppose you mean proofreader. Among these I have known limpid creatures of limitless tact and tenderness who would discuss with me a semicolon as if it were a point of honor—which, indeed, a point of art often is. But I have also come across a few pompous avuncular brutes who would attempt to “make suggestions” which I countered with a thunderous ‘stet!’”1

What is the best way for editors to communicate with authors who balk at the suggestions made to improve the manuscript?

a. E-mail the author to tell him/her that all the edits are based on the AMA Manual of Style and therefore not subject to change.

b. Telephone the author to discuss the edits, iterating the rationale and providing resource support for the changes.

c. Do not respond to the author.

d. Eliminate all the edits and publish the paper as the author originally submitted it.

What would you do? Here’s our advice (use your mouse to highlight the text box):

Telephone the author to discuss the edits, iterating the rationale and providing resource support for the changes.

Usually, an author’s insistence to overrule all editorial changes is a knee-jerk reaction to extensive editing. Most authors are aware of the editing process, although some need to be guided gently through it. Communicating with the author and explaining the reason for the changes (as well as providing resource support when necessary) can often defuse a volatile situation.—Laura King, MA, ELS


  1. Gold H, interviewer. Vladimir Nabokov, The Art of Fiction No. 40. The Paris Review. Accessed February 8, 2013.

October 7, 2012

Quiz Bowl: Articles

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 7:19 am
Tags: ,

Once again it’s time for a historic Quiz Bowl. Okay, maybe historic is a bit much, but I’m trying to make a point here. The point has to do with the subject of this month’s AMA Manual of Style quiz—articles. Is it a historic or an historic Quiz Bowl? Did you guess a historic? If so, you’re right. The article a is used before the aspirate h (eg, a historic occasion) and nonvocalic y (eg, a ubiquitous organism) (§11.9, Articles, p 412 in print).

Try another example from this month’s quiz.

The physician told that patient that he should have a/an ultrasound examination performed.

Here’s a hint. Sometimes it helps to read the sentence aloud.

The answer is as follows (use your mouse to highlight the text box):

The physician told that patient that he should have an ultrasound examination performed.

Words beginning with vowels are preceded by a or an according to the sound following (in this case, the u sound) (§11.9, Articles, p 412 in print).

Sound plays an important role in determining whether to use a or an. Test your skills by taking the full Articles Quiz on the AMA Manual of Style online. It will be a (or is that an?) unique experience.—Laura King, MA, ELS

August 30, 2012

Quiz Bowl: Anatomy

Filed under: quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 7:54 am
Tags: ,

Quiz Bowl is back! After a much need summer hiatus (much needed on my part, not sure how you guys feel about the matter), the games continue with a quiz on anatomy. Hmmm, maybe I should rephrase that. Make that with a quiz on anatomy terms. Hmmm, that’s medical terms, not the kind you see scribbled on the bathroom wall. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get to the question.

Edit the following sentence to conform to the AMA Manual of Style guidelines on anatomical terms (§11.6, Anatomy, p 410 in print).

The investigators examined catheter-induced lesions of the right heart.

Any ideas? Consider the term right heart. Here’s the answer (use your mouse to highlight the text box):

The investigators examined catheter-induced lesions of the right side of the heart

Although some animals have more than 1 heart (the octopus, the earthworm, the cockroach), people only have 1 heart. Authors often err in referring to anatomical regions or structures as the “right heart,” “left chest,” “left neck,” and “right brain.” The terms right and left imply 2 different structures. Generally these terms can be corrected by inserting a phrase such as “part of the” or “side of the.”

Want to learn more? Take the full Anatomy Quiz on the AMA Manual of Style online. See you next month!—Laura King, MA, ELS

May 31, 2012

AMA Style Insider Responds

Filed under: meta-blog,quizzes — amastyleinsider @ 1:03 pm
Tags: , ,

We love comments. (From real people, that is. Spambots, you can stop any time.)

We love comments like, “Great blog!” We even love comments like, “You are wrong about every single thing related to medical editing, your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries, goodbye.” Both of those require simple responses—I like “Thanks!” for both, to be honest. For the latter, I would be charitable and not even comment on the comma usage.

Every once in a while someone will leave a critical comment that requires a longer response, and sometimes the consultation of outside experts. That was the case with this Quiz Bowl post on units of measure. A reader wrote:

A big problem with the AMA manual is a lack of consideration significant figures. The conversion factor listed in the online “SI Conversion Tables” section from feet to centimeters is 30. That’s wrong. Let’s say I try to convert my height (6.0000 feet) into centimeters. The “.0000″ means that my measurement has 5 significant figures. Significant figures are important in science and health care.

I start with the only unit conversion between customary and metric that matters: 2.54 centimeters equals exactly 1 inch. This is the only conversion that matters because it is a definition. There are infinite significant figures.

Here is what happens if I use the “SI Conversion Tables” section of the AMA manual of style:

6.0000 feet * 30 = 180 centimeters

Here is what happens if I use math and pay attention to significant figures:

6.0000 feet * (12 inches/1 foot) * (2.54 cm)/(1 inch) = 182.88

Where did those extra 2.88 centimeters come from? They came from a a conversion factor that was wrong.

For the same reason as above, your answer to the first problem is wrong.

7.2 inches^2 * (((2.54 cm)^2)/((1 in)^2)) = 46.45 (assuming 4 significant figures, to demonstrate the inaccuracy of your conversion factor)

This isn’t just an academic exercise. A text for editors shouldn’t have errors like this.

We made “hmmm” noises for a while but finally drafted a response to post here, since a shameful amount of time has gone by since the original comment.

You raise an important point about the significance of significant digits. The Manual addresses this in section 20.8.1 and, in chapter 18, where the conversion table is embedded that shows conversions for inches to centimeters, there is a caution that results should not be reported beyond the appropriate level of precision.  It is critical to ascertain the precision needed for the clinical context of the conversion. If you only need significance to 1 place beyond the decimal (7.2 inches) to accurately describe tumor size, then the 2 significant digits of the result should be fine and the clinical difference between 46.8 and 46.5 is probably not important.

It’s entirely possible that the final 3 words of that paragraph are the equivalent of a thrown gauntlet to someone out there—if so, we’re willing to continue the conversation in the comments to this post.—Brenda Gregoline, ELS

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 458 other followers

%d bloggers like this: