August 8, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: references,usage — amastyleinsider @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , ,

Q: How can a user of your online manual tell if use of a particular word (such as namely) is discouraged?

A:  The first place to look might be chapter 11, Correct and Preferred Usage. But the word you used as an example is not included therein. Or you could try a search in the online manual for the word in question. But that too produces nothing helpful, most likely because we have no “official” policy on this word. Next you might consult a good usage book or the usage notes in the American Heritage Dictionary. Finding nothing anywhere, you could decide on a policy for your publication or the document you are working on, if this seems appropriate or desirable.

Q:  Several questions about the citation of abstracts in a reference list.

  • Section 3.11.9 (Abstracts and Other Material Taken From Another Source) states on page 50 that for abstracts published in the society proceedings of a journal, “the name of the society before which the paper was read need not be included” and that “if a[n abstract] number is included, it is placed in brackets along with the ‘abstract’ designation.” What is not made clear is whether including an “abstract” designation is mandatory or voluntary.   

Should an “abstract” designation be included in the citation to an abstract published in the society proceedings of a journal if neither the society’s name nor an abstract number is being provided? In other words, using example 3 of the book as a base, which of the following would be correct?  

  •  . . . Lemli-Opitz syndrome. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2001;42(suppl):S627.  (the reference is not identified as being an abstract)


  • . . . Lemli-Opitz syndrome [abstract]. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2001;42(suppl):S627.  (the reference is identified as being an abstract)

If the “[abstract]” designation is not mandatory, is it AMA style to delete it when an author includes it (without an accompanying society name or abstract number) in such a reference?

Also, if an abstract is given an abstract number in the place where it is published, is it considered mandatory or voluntary for its number to be included in the reference citation? The text in the manual says “if a number is included” but the meaning of this is possibly ambiguous (included by the journal in which it was published; or voluntarily included by the author who submits the manuscript as a matter of the submitting author’s preference? It seems most likely that it is the latter, but I’m not certain). 

A:  In order:

  • The if  is meant to signify that the designation as an abstract should be included if it is provided.
  • The second version you provided would be preferred. It’s a nice service to readers to let them know that what is referenced is an abstract.
  • Absolutely not. We would never delete it. It too provides a service to readers, helping them to find the abstract referred to, should they be so inclined.
  • You interpreted the manual correctly—the latter is what is intended.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

July 12, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: references — amastyleinsider @ 10:23 am

Q: Does your style require parenthetical page numbers after the superscript citation of the reference number on all references or just direct quotations?

A: The manual does not “require” page numbers with any in-text citations. If an author wishes to cite different page numbers from a single reference source at different places in the text, the page number or page numbers may be included in the superscript citation and the source appears only once in the reference list. The superscript may include more than a single page number and/or citation of more than a single reference, and all spaces are closed up.

  • These patients showed no sign of protective sphincteric adduction.3(p21),9
  • Westman5(pp3,5) reported 8 cases in which vomiting occurred.

An author may also wish to use such a reference to an exact page after citing a quotation, directing the reader to the page on which the quotation appears. See section 3.6  for more details on this point.

Q: When a reference is cited in the text and the author is named as part of the citation, how should a 2-author citation be mentioned? Or a citation involving 3 or more authors?

A: We recommend the following:

  • Doe and Roe8 reported on the survey.
  • Doe et al10 reported on the survey.

Of course it is also acceptable to cite a reference and not give an author’s name (or authors’ names) in the text, or to use “and colleagues” or “and associates” or similar phrases rather than “et al.”  See the examples below and section 3.7 for more on this.

  • Several investigators13-16 corroborated these findings.
  • Friedman and colleagues11 reported on this at the 2011 American Heart Association meeting.—Cheryl Iverson, MA


June 27, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 1:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

Q: We do not find anything in the manual on how to treat “24/7.” Would you recommend spelling it out?

A: You are right. We don’t address this. But Webster’s 11th does. Both “24-7” and “24/7” are offered as equal variants. I think the latter is more common and would prefer that, without spelling it out.

Q: I understand that human genes are set all caps and italic, with the protein products set all caps and roman. But what to do with proto-oncogenes? Do the examples in section 15.6.2 indicate that, if the c- prefix is used, the lowercase (retroviral) form of the 3-letter oncogene is always used, regardless of whether we’re dealing with humans or mice? I am often presented with c-KIT, c-Kit, and c-kit in one document and would appreciate a clear explanation.

A: For oncogenes, it would always be c-kit and then, based on page 633 of the style manual, KIT for the human gene homologue and Kit for the mouse gene homologue.

Q: To follow your reference style, if “et al” is used, is a period used after “al”? And should the reference number be set as a superscript?

A: To answer your second question first, yes, the reference number should be set as a superscript if you follow the style set forth in the AMA Manual. And unless “et al” ends the sentence, “al” would not be followed by a period (even though it is an abbreviation).—Cheryl Iverson, MA

May 7, 2012

Citing Electronic Editions: or, Getting on the Same Page

Filed under: references — amastyleinsider @ 11:13 am
Tags: , , recently posted a tip on how to cite a book read on a Kindle or other similar e-reader,1 noting that with the lack of page numbers in such electronic editions this was a “peculiarity” that editors could use guidance on. They provided the guidance offered by the Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. They noted that the AMA Manual of Style was “quiet on the subject.”

Not liking to remain quiet for long, Stacy Christiansen, our manual’s “Tweeter,” sent a tweet2 using the same example used in the tip. To wit:

Barr C; senior editors at Yahoo. Shape your text for online reading. In: The Yahoo Style Guide. Kindle ed. New York, NY: St Martins Griffin; 2010.

Tweets don’t allow much space to delve into the finer points, such as how multiple specific citations in this book could be referenced in a single manuscript, which would also help readers who are not seeking the citation on a Kindle find the specific citation. Here is a little more information for a more specific citation, indicating not only the chapter name but also the paragraph number within the chapter:

Barr C; senior editors at Yahoo. Shape your text for online reading. In: The Yahoo Style Guide. Kindle ed. New York, NY: St Martins Griffin; 2010:¶1.

An article in the New York Times3 indicated that this question is of interest to more than manuscript editors—for example, to members of a book group, some of whom read the book under discussion in print and others of whom read it on an electronic reader, but all of whom want to be able to be “on the same page” when they are discussing the book. Furthermore, this desire has been taken seriously by Amazon, which markets the Kindle. The article noted that the Kindle “will now supplement its ‘location numbers’ with page numbers that correspond to physical books.”

Bravo, we might say. The author of the article, however, offers a different perspective by saying that the attempt to “incorporate cues to keep people grounded in what has come before [eg, the page number] or scrap convention completely” is a dilemma for designers of these new technologies. So, as we leap to the future, some of us still find it useful to keep one foot in the not-so-distant past. And there’s a word for that (also noted in the article): skeuomorphs. Long may we live and long may we leap (with glee but caution).—Cheryl Iverson, MA

1. Nichols W. Copyediting Tip of the Week: Citing electronic editions. Copyediting blog. Posted January 18, 2011. Accessed May 7, 2012.

2. To cite an e-reader. Posted January 31, 2011. Accessed May 7, 2012.

3. Brustein J. Why innovation doffs an old hat: Breakthroughs like the Kindle and the iPad retain cues to keep users grounded in what came before. New York Times. February 13, 2011;Week in Review:2.

February 7, 2012

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 1:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

Q: If a product name appears in all caps in a company’s product literature (with or without a trademark symbol or registered symbol), must the editor retain the all caps in a journal article? Companies use caps for graphic impact or emphasis, but caps can be distracting and can make the text difficult to read. Would it be acceptable to substitute only an initial cap for an all-cap product name, particularly if the product is the main subject of the manuscript and occurs frequently?

A: Our journals do not require use of the trademark symbol (™) or the registered symbol (®) as the use of the initial cap frequently used on proprietary names indicates the proprietary nature of the name (see 5.6.16, Legal and Ethical Considerations, Intellectual Property:  Ownership Access, Rights, and Management, Trademark). There are exceptions to the use of the initial cap (eg, pHisoHex; see section 10.8, “Intercapped” Compounds) and in these cases, as in all others, we advise using the name according to the presentation of the legal trademark. To avoid a plethora of caps—which certainly can be distracting—we would suggest varying the way in which the product is referred to (eg, “this product,” “it”) as long as the meaning remains clear.

Q: Your manual indicates that references should be numbered consecutively with arabic numerals in the order in which they are cited in the text. But what about the distinction between references cited in a range and references cited individually? If an author cites references 1 through 5, does this count as only the citation of reference 1, as the first number in the range, or does it count as citation of all 5 references included in the range?

A: It matters not if the references are cited as part of a range or cited individually. Even if a reference is cited as part of a range, when any one of those references is cited later, it retains the same reference number.  This is not specifically stated in the Manual and, perhaps wrongly, we assumed that it would be understood. Thank you for allowing us to clarify this point.

Q: Convention seems to be to use the leading zero in P values, but why is this necessary since P cannot be greater than 1?

A: JAMA and the Archives Journals do not use a zero to the left of the decimal point, since statistically it is not possible to prove or disprove the null hypothesis completely when only a sample of the population is tested (P cannot equal 1 or 0, except by rounding). If convention dictates otherwise, we are unconventional!

Q: I have been unable to find specific rules on the use of nonbreaking hyphens and spaces. Do you have any suggestions for the correct and preferred use of nonbreaking hyphens and spaces?

A: You are right. We do not have any section devoted to this. However, there is information about line breaks scattered throughout the Manual. For example:

  • On page 29 (section 1.20.4), there is information on how to break an e-mail address. The same guidelines apply to breaking URLs.
  • On page 646 (section 15.6.4), there is information on breaking long karyotypes.
  • On page 910 (section 21.5), there is information on breaking long formulas.

There may be other instances like this scattered throughout the Manual where specific guidance is needed. However, individual publishers or clients may have their own preferences that require attention when editing material for their publications.

Q: I am working on a manuscript in which one of the authors has listed the degree MAS (Master of Advanced Studies). This abbreviation is not included in the Manual. Is it acceptable?

A:  This is a perfectly acceptable abbreviation. We simply did not have space to list all possible degrees and their abbreviations in the Manual and attempted to list some of the more common ones.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

January 17, 2012

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for Electronic References

Filed under: references — amastyleinsider @ 3:06 pm

Electronic references are widely used in scientific publications. Most people are familiar with the URL (uniform resource locator), the address for a page on the Internet. A serious problem with URLs is described by the slang term link rot, the tendency of URLs to fail over time because the content has been deleted or moved. Markwell and Brooks1 found that science education URLs went bad at a rate of more than 10% per year (63% were bad after 5 years 11 months).

The DOI was created in part to address this problem. At the time of publication, DOI names are assigned to content objects themselves; in contrast, URLs are assigned to locations of objects. DOIs are permanent; once assigned, they cannot be changed. Because of the DOI system’s technology, DOI links are persistent—an object’s DOI link continues to work even if its URL changes.

All DOI names have a prefix and a suffix, separated by a forward slash; for example, 10.1001/jama.2009.2. All DOI prefixes begin with the directory code 10, followed by a period and a number identifying the entity that registered the DOI (usually the publisher), in this case the American Medical Association. The DOI suffix is a unique identifier for the content object and is assigned by the entity that registers the DOI; the suffix does not have to have any meaning, although some publishers use the object’s bibliographic information or its ISBN. In this case the suffix comprises the journal abbreviation (jama), the year of editorial processing (2009), and a sequential number (2). By convention, when a DOI is cited, “doi:” precedes the DOI and is set closed up to it.

The process by which a DOI is used to link to a content object is called resolution. There are 2 easy ways to resolve DOIs:

• Any DOI can be converted to a URL by adding the prefix “”; for example, Enter the URL in any Web browser’s address window.

• The International DOI Foundation provides a Web page that resolves DOIs, Paste the DOI into the box on this Web page.

To find the correct DOI for an electronic reference:

• The DOI registration agency CrossRef’s simple text query page ( locates DOIs for references input as text. Paste the reference into the box on this Web page.

• CrossRef’s fielded search page ( supports a more targeted search.

• Use the click-through link from the PubMed service of the National Library of Medicine ( There’s often a link at the top right of an article’s citation page on PubMed to the article on the publisher’s Web site, and the DOI usually appears there.

See §3.15, Electronic References in the AMA Manual of Style (pp 64-67 in print) for more information about the correct format for DOIs in electronic references.—Paul Frank

1. Markwell J, Brooks DW. Broken links: just how rapidly do science education hyperlinks go extinct? . Updated July 24, 2006. Accessed January 17, 2012.

August 23, 2011

Citations a-Twitter

Filed under: references — amastyleinsider @ 11:48 am
Tags: ,

The dizzying speed at which technology has been evolving often leaves those of us entrenched in the world of crediting sources and editing reference lists running to keep up. We have standard citation formats for Web sites (§3.15), publish ahead of print articles (§3.15.1), and e-reader content (Tweet on January 31, 2011). Those of us who edit scientific content do not regularly (if ever) come across a citation to Twitter. That does not mean, however, that Twitter does not offer anything useful to science writers and editors. Government agencies, scientific journals, researchers, and others involved in publishing Tweet constantly.

How, then, should one cite a Tweet? In deciding AMA style position on this, we first had to resolve whether Twitter constituted a standard citable source or was more in the realm of “personal communications” (such as e-mail). We agreed that Twitter does belong in the citations list because it’s in the public domain, anyone can follow the Tweets of a journal or agency, and the individual posts are maintained by date with a lasting link. In addition, the US Library of Congress is to begin archiving all public Tweets, ensuring their searchability and permanence (

The second decision we had to make was what should be included in the citation. Our final Twitter citation style is based on that of a regular Web site reference:

1. @AMAManual. Many now accept “data” as singular. However, JAMA & Archives Journals retain the use of the plural verb with “data.”!/AMAManual/status/94117252009431040. Posted July 21, 2011.

2. @AMAManual. Style update! “CI” no longer requires expansion at first mention in AMA Style. So, 95% CI instead of 95% confidence interval (CI).!/AMAManual/status/96287318616440833. Posted July 27, 2011.

In the first position is the author, in this case the “handle” or username on Twitter (@AMAManual). Then follows the full Tweet, the URL of that post (found by clicking on the date stamp), and finally the date of posting.

For those writing and editing in the social and behavioral sciences, the APA style blog also has addressed the citation of Twitter (

We hope this can help avoid citations sounding like a cacophony of Angry Birds.—Stacy L. Christiansen, MA

August 9, 2011

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

Q: I’m not sure when I should use “rheumatologic” vs “rheumatological.”  Is there a subtle difference I don’t know about?

A: The use of “-ic” vs “-ical” is addressed in the Manual on page 396 in the Correct and Preferred Usage chapter.  You’ll note that there are a few instances in which the choice of ending does make a difference in meaning.  With “rheumatologic” vs “rheumatological” I do not believe there is such a difference in meaning and we would be more likely to choose the “-ic” ending for the rationale described on page 396.

Q: I’ve always followed Edie Schwager’s advice in Medical English Usage and Abusage (p 153):

If you remember to prevent, you’ll never choose the obsolete “preventative” instead of “preventive.”  The noun is prevention, not “preventation.”

Do you agree?

A: We agree with Edie.  We also prefer preventiveWebster’s 11th edition shows the 2 words as equal in meaning but shows a preference for preventive as well.  Consensus!

Q: In section 3.15.3 of the Manual, the words “Web site” are used in examples 1 through 3 and 6, but are not used in examples 4 and 5.  What is the rationale for these differences?

A: This is an excellent question and points out an inconsistency that should be corrected.  I would include “Web site” in examples 4 and 5 as well.  In our next edition, I think we will need to consider if the inclusion of “Web site” is necessary or helpful.  In the current edition, we decided to drop the inclusion of “Available from:” before the URL as we thought that URLs were now well enough known that they did not need this extra identifier.  Perhaps this will also become the case with “Web site.”

Q: When an author’s surname includes 2 names not joined by a hyphen, which name should be included in the reference citation?

A: To assist in answering this question, I consulted Lou Knecht, Deputy Chief, Bibliographic Services Division, at the National Library of Medicine (NLM).  She said that the surname is determined by the preference of the author and she stressed the important role played by the author in presenting this information clearly to the publisher. Publishers also play an important role in clarifying the surname, for example, by using some  typographic device (eg, boldface on the author’s surname in the byline or in the table of contents) to make clear which is the surname.  She notes, “If the journal does not use some sort of surname indicator technique, then both the journal and NLM are left to make their best guesses.  And we frequently guess wrong.”   If NLM is contacted by an author to correct an incorrect surname (ie, the name is presented in direct order in the text and you cannot tell what the surname is), they will gladly do this.  They also monitor authors’ preferences for surname, so once NLM is contacted the first time about an incorrect surname, they enter the complicated surname into a table for the future.  If, however, the surname is published incorrectly, this requires an erratum.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

August 2, 2011

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions — amastyleinsider @ 11:15 am
Tags: , , ,

Q:   If one has a list of laboratory values, does one have to keep repeating the units of measure, eg, albumin levels of 3.8 g/dL, 3.9 g/dL, and 4.0 g/dL, or is once enough, eg, albumin levels of 3.8, 3.9, and 4.0 g/dL.

A:  No, the unit of measure does not have to be repeated:  albumin levels of 3.8, 3.9, and 4.0 g/dL is fine.  The exception to this is for units of measure that are set closed up to the number or value that they follow, such as the degree sign or the percent sign.  In these cases, the unit of measure should be repeated:  38%, 45%, and 53%.

Q:   What abbreviation does JAMA/Archives prefer for adjusted odds ratio?

A:   We prefer AOR.

Q:   Is “data on file” acceptable in a bibliography or in parentheses in the text?  I don’t see this in the Manual.

A:   The phrase “data on file” is a little vague.  What a reader who’s interested in more information might really want to know is how the author of the manuscript saw the data (and how, perhaps, the interested reader might be able to see it too).  Something more granular about how the author came upon the information would be more helpful.  For example, did the author learn about the information through a personal communication (and is that personal communication the “data on file”?)?  If so, see 3.13.9 in the Manual for how to style this as an in-text references.  Is the “data on file” an internal memo at an institution and, if so, does it have a document number that could be listed in the reference list?

Q:   Would you hyphenate “quality of life” when it’s used as a noun as well as when it’s used as an adjective?

A:   We usually hyphenate as an adjective and not as a noun.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

May 20, 2011

Questions From Users of the Manual

Filed under: frequently asked questions,punctuation,usage — amastyleinsider @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

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

« Previous Page

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 501 other followers

%d bloggers like this: