Weeds and Words

Here at AMA Manual of Style headquarters, there is snow on the ground and all the weeds are mostly dead. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t “get into the weeds” on a near-daily basis, particularly during style manual committee meetings. Here’s a post from The Word Detective that explores, but does not solve, the mysteries of that phrase’s origin. —Brenda Gregoline, ELS

Questions From Users of the Manual

126291-simple-black-square-icon-alphanumeric-percent-sign

Q: I appreciate the difference between percentile and percentage, but can you shed light on the difference between percentile and centile?

A: Ed Livingston, MD, a JAMA deputy editor and author of the statistics chapter in the 11th edition of our style manual, responds:

Percentile refers to the percentage below which a group of observations fall, ie, 93 percentile means that 93% of the observations fell below that value. If I had a score that was in the 85th percentile, I had a score that was better than 85% of all people taking that test.

Centile refers to which group an observation belongs to when the population is divided into 100 equal groups, like a quartile. With a quartile there are 4 equal-sized groups and with a centile there are 100 equal-sized groups—so in practice it’s the same as a percentile. —Cheryl Iverson, MA

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: How should a photograph or illustration be cited in the reference list?

A: In the reference list, cite the article in which the figure you want to reference appears in the “usual” way of citing a journal article. In the text, where you cite the reference, use the following style:

As Christiansen and Fischer [add superscript citation here to the appropriate reference number…you could also include the number of the page on which the figure you are citing appears, in parentheses] illustrate in Figure 1 of their study….

—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Waffling on the Internet: To Cap or Not

When I signed up to write a blog post on the decision this year by the New York Times and the Associated Press to stop capitalizing the term internet, I thought it would be a good way to come to terms with the decision by The JAMA Network to follow this style. My first thought had been, “Internet’s gotta be capitalized!” I’ve been capitalizing this word for a long time—since Google was invented and people could “surf” on it. I felt that it wasn’t right to use lowercase.

When the word is not initial capped, the wonder that is the internet seems somehow diminished. Reading about pros and cons, I discovered that feelings can run high on this subject, and people have very definite ideas about Internet vs internet. On the Grammarist’s website, people point out that there can be many internets—interconnected computers—but there is only 1 Internet, a kind of internet that would be hard to live without.

Alas, the internet is no longer a magical place—it’s something mundane, like radio or television or cable. But I am old enough to remember when it did feel magical. There weren’t many things to look up or opportunities to surf, but you just knew those days were coming.

On the one hand, as several Grammarist commenters pointed out, originally Internet referred to the internet delivered by the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—it was a very specific institution. Its precursor was the ARPANET, which dates back to the 1960s. One the other hand, according to Wikipedia, “the designers of early computer networks used internet both as a noun and as a verb in shorthand form of internetwork or internetworking, meaning interconnecting computer networks.”

I see both sides of the argument. Although old habits die hard, ultimately, one has to has to go with the flow, especially in the workplace. The internet, if nothing else, is all about change and updates.—Karen Boyd

 

 

Questions From Users of the Manual

[Editor’s Note: I love the idea of referencing a sound!]

Q: How should a “free sound” from the website Freesound.org be cited in the reference list?

A: We would recommend the following for citation format, altering the accessed date to reflect the date it was accessed:

Crickets.  http://freesound.org/people/rfhache/sounds/52755/.  Posted May 2, 2008.  Accessed February 1, 2016.

We are revising our manual now for the 11th edition and will be including many more examples of electronic references.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Raising (Rearing?) Hell

Besides the dropping energy levels and unsightly wrinkles that daily remind me of my advancing age, I never expected an Associated Press style rule—beaten into me as a young reporter—to deliver the one-two punch that landed me squarely into the “old fogies” category.

I was editing a JAMA Viewpoint about a fairly modern question involving gender identity, hormone levels, and eligibility for women’s athletic events when my knee began to jerk at first sight of the descriptor “raised,” as it applies to how or where someone grew up.

As soon as I saw the word, I heard harsh tones in my head and felt the breeze of a wagging finger: “Corn and cattle are raised, people are reared!” So I dutifully changed “raised” to “reared” as the AP Stylebook commands. Soon, I sent the proof off for review by the senior editors and the authors.

As I had predicted, one of the medical editors deleted “reared” and inserted “raised.” I knew I was right about this! I was poised to cross off the edit when I thought, “Maybe I should look at a newer version of a stylebook, just to see if the rules have slackened over the decades.” (Our own AMA Manual of Style is silent on the matter.) My office was too cluttered to find the newest Associated Press Stylebook, so I turned to Google.

The first search result was titled “Grammar Gremlins: Is it ‘reared’ or ‘raised’?” I clicked—who says a pithy headline doesn’t draw in a reader?  Knoxville News Sentinel Columnist Don Ferguson, who by his photo looks older than me, offered his first sentence:

A recent Associated Press report about an accused terrorist said the man was “born and reared” in America.

He followed with,

Did this use of “reared” instead of “raised” say something about the age of the writer?

Oh my goodness! Who would have thought that old style rule would say more about me than my slowing gait? He noted that youngsters favor “raised.” He cited Garners Modern American Usage’s calculations that “born and raised” is used 8 times more often than “born and reared.”

As with most of often-confused words, he also noted that dictionaries say either is correct.

I dropped my pen and conceded the edit.—Beverly Stewart

 

 

 

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: Should “least squares mean” be hyphenated? Can the acronym LSM be used or is LS preferred?

A: In the glossary in the statistics chapter, you’ll see that there is no hyphen used in “least squares method,” so I would extrapolate from that to say no hyphen is required in “least squares mean.” If this term comes up so frequently in the manuscript that you feel an abbreviation is warranted, we indicate no preference for what that abbreviation is. Just be sure it’s used consistently throughout.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Quiz Yourself

Number needed to treat (NNT) is the number of patients who must be treated with an intervention for a specific period to prevent 1 bad outcome or result in 1 good outcome. What is the reciprocal of the NNT? Use your mouse to highlight the answer:

Absolute risk reduction, which is the proportion in the control group experiencing an event minus the proportion in the intervention group experiencing an event, is the reciprocal of the NNT.

See §20.9 for a Glossary of Statistical Terms.—Laura King, MA, MFA, ELS

What Time Is It?

There are dozens of recognized time zones throughout the world. Time zone information may occasionally be included in scientific writing, depending on whether such data are useful for comprehension. In general, however, time zone information may be omitted. If included, the zone’s abbreviation may or may not be added in parentheses (some time zone abbreviations have more than one possible expansion, eg, BST stands for Bangladesh standard time [Asia], Bougainville standard time [Pacific], and British summer time [Europe]).

The international team of investigators scheduled a video conference via Skype at 9 am CST (central standard time) to discuss issues concerning its upcoming clinical trial.

The circadian rhythm aspects of sleep and wakefulness allow us researchers to understand both the normal physiology and the pathophysiology of occasional sleepiness related to shift work among health care workers and to travel across time zones.

Institutions that are interested in applying to become a center for excellence may participate in a webinar on September 12, 2017, from 3 pm to 5 pm EST.

A very useful resource for current times worldwide is available at The World Clock.—Roxanne K. Young, ELS

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: If I have a title with a colon, is the first word after the colon capitalized or lowercased?

A: If you are speaking about title and subtitle on the manuscript itself, every major word in the title and subtitle, as well as the first word of title and subtitle, would begin with a capital letter.

Endless and Essential:  The Tug-of-War Over Off-Label Use

If you are speaking about the title and subtitle of a journal article as it appears in the reference list, only the first word of the title and any proper nouns would begin with a capital letter.

19. Incollingo J. Endless and essential:  the tug-of-war over off-label use. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. 2016;16(5):19-27.

More about capitalization of titles can be found in chapter 10.—Cheryl Iverson, MA