Check out this post from Skeptical Scalpel about uncool tricks with statistical graphs. Editors beware!—Brenda Gregoline, ELS
Q: How should columns with mixed units of measure indicate the unit of measure?
A: In a table with mixed units throughout, use a table footnote for the most common unit of measure, eg, “Unless otherwise indicated, data are expressed as number (percentage).” and specify in the stub or column head only those units that are different. In a table with mixed units in a single column, use the most common unit in the column head and only provide another unit in the table cell for those entries that have a different unit of measure.
Q: Because of the change from the 9th to the 10th edition in the way number and percentage are handled in running text (see page 832 in the 10th edition), should column headings in tables also be changed to read, for example, “No. of Girls (%)” rather than “No. (%) of Girls”?
A: No. The style “No. (%) of Girls” is still an acceptable table column head as here both “number” and “percentage” apply to “of girls,” whereas in the example on p 832, the percentage is given as more of an aside to the numerator and denominator and hence follows: “Death occurred in 6 of 200 patients (3%).”
Q: What recommendations do you have for the preferred typeface of a punctuation mark that follows copy set in something other than roman type?
A: Some specific recommendations are outlined below:
• If an entire sentence is set in a typeface other than roman (eg, italic, bold), any punctuation in that sentence would take the typeface of the rest of the sentence.
• If part of a sentence is set in a typeface other than roman, even if it’s the end of the sentence, the ending punctuation would be roman.
• For heads, sideheads, entries in a glossary, the punctuation would follow that of the preceding word (so, in Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases, the commas between the word pairs are boldface, like the words).
• For parentheses and brackets, unless the entire sentence is set in a typeface other than roman, the parentheses or brackets are roman (see the example with “[sic]” on p 358).—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Q: If there is a column for P values in a table and if a P value “straddles” rows (eg, provides the P value for men vs women), how should this be shown?
A: There are several options, with option 1 being preferred:
1. Center the P value between the items it compares (eg, between the values for men and women) and consider the use of a side brace.
2. If only 2 items are being compared, list the P value on the line giving the overall category (eg, Sex).
3. Use footnotes to indicate the P value for items being compared (eg, use a superscript “a” next to the value for men and the value for women and indicate the P value for this comparison in a footnote labeled “a”).
Q: If some of the confidence intervals given in a table column include negative values, how do you combine the minus sign and the hyphen that would normally be used in such a range in a table?
A: With ranges that include a minus sign, use to to express the range, rather than a hyphen. Carry this style throughout the entire table, even for those values that do not include a minus sign.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Q: I’ve been searching the 10th edition to see where the list of footnote symbols from the previous edition is given and I cannot find it. Is that because the lowercase alphabet letters are now going to replace these symbols, as mentioned on page 91?
A: Yes, almost right. We have changed our policy on using superscript symbols for table footnotes and are now using superscript lowercase letters. There are more of them and they are not so “odd.” However, we are continuing to use the old “footnote symbols” for bottom-of-the-page footnotes (see p 43). We only show 2 here…the asterisk and the dagger…because it is not likely that more would be needed (this is the only type of bottom-of-page footnotes that we use in our journals), but if you were to require more, the “old” list would still apply.
Q: I haven’t been able to locate in the 10th edition the place where it says that the symbols “greater than” and “less than” should not be used in running text. (It’s at the top of p 256 in the ninth edition.)
A: You are correct. We neglected to include that this time, but the policy is the same. The examples on page 399 illustrate this, but having the specific statement would be good. It’s a bit like the policy we have of reserving the use of the hyphen for ranges to within parentheses and in tables (and, of course, in references, for the page ranges) and not using it in running text (P values are another exception). It all has to do with “elegance.”—Cheryl Iverson, MA
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 http://www.amamanualofstyle.com—Laura King, MA, ELS
Q: Would you hyphenate “white coat hypertension”?
A: We would follow the latest edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. The 11th edition recommends inclusion of a hyphen: white-coat hypertension.
Q: If 2 footnote symbols appear next to each other in a table, should any punctuation be introduced between them?
A: Yes. As with the policy for citation of a reference citation and a footnote symbol side by side (see page 95 in the print), add a comma. So, you might have superscript a,b; or superscript a,c-e.
Q: I would like to know how to cite your 10th edition in the style recommended by the 10th edition.
A: Glad to oblige:
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.
Q: Section 3.10 advises beginning the subtitle of a journal article cited in a reference list with a lowercase letter. Is this true even if the title ends with a question mark?
A: Yes. Here is an example, edited to style:
Mayer AP, Files JA, Ko MG, Blair JE. Do socialized gender differences have a role in mentoring? academic advancement of women in medicine. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008;83(2):204-207.
The same policy would apply if the title were to end with an exclamation point, although those are rare in scholarly article titles!—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Q: If a person has multiple advanced degrees, should the medical degree always be listed first, eg, MD, PhD?
A: We would advise following the author’s preference as far as the order in which degrees are listed.
Q: I know that journal names are typically italicized in their expanded form, eg, Journal of the American Medical Association. Should the abbreviation also be italic, eg, JAMA?
A: Yes. The same policy applies to book titles and their expansions. See, for example, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision and ICD-9 in the list in 14.11.
Q: On page 500, in the list of journal abbreviations, is there a reason that the journal Transplantation is spelled out in full as Transplantation and yet other journals whose titles include that word abbreviate it as Transplant?
A: Yes, there is a reason. See the sentence on page 479 advising that “Single-word journal titles are not abbreviated.”
Q: The AMA Manual of Style says that tables should be able to stand independently and not require explanation from the text. Could you clarify “stand independently”? Our publication has taken this rule to an extreme, often adding lengthy definitions of terms already provided in the text. One recent example added 15 footnotes to a single table!
A: As with so many things editorial, this requires judgment. We were thinking about things like this:
It truly is a question of judgment and I suspect that 15 footnotes in a single table is taking it too far.—Cheryl Iverson, MA