Living With Style

Did you know that the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry doesn’t follow AMA style? Here’s proof:

There are a few things I would change if I could edit that. Amanda, author of “People-First Language,” texted this to me and a few other JAMA Network editors a few weeks ago. It got me thinking about some stuff. Namely: am I becoming a style snob?

I know I’m not a grammar snob. I’m a lazy talker who don’t always speak good. No matter how many times I’m corrected, “my friends and I” never hang out, but “me and my friends” do. I don’t really care about parallel structure or flat adverbs when talking because—when it comes to speech—I think communication is more important than talking proper.

But that’s grammar. Like Amanda, I’m noticing style in everyday life, and I can’t not want to correct it. Whenever my girlfriend talks about side effects, I mutter “adverse” under my breath. I joke with a friend that she isn’t “suffering” through the day but simply “experiencing” it. I’m starting to change “compared to”s to “compared with”s on the fly when reading children’s books aloud. Seriously: I’m starting to change children’s books to style.

All of this is pretty harmless, and I’d imagine my manager is happy that some style changes are becoming automatic. But outside of work? I don’t want to be so automatic that I change, for example, “Alzheimer’s” to “Alzheimer,” shifting the focus of the conversation from illness to eponyms and the nonvirtue of ’s. I don’t want to derail trains of thought because I keep mumbling corrections when listening to people talk. I don’t want to be a style snob.

I’ve only been editing exclusively to AMA style for 2 years. For those with more time dedicated to one style guide: how bad have you gotten? Leave us a comment!—Kevin Brown

One thought on “Living With Style

  1. It is unavoidable! My daughter and I are both editors, and heaven help the restaurants we visit. Can we ever look at a menu without finding a typo? And most websites are atrocious. Working as an editor will always have repercussions that carry over to everyday life. I even find myself correcting my dog (not really, but coming close :). Get serious – we are not style snobs. We are good at what we do, day in and day out. Use it and enjoy it….no choices there.

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