Questions From Users of the Manual

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

Quiz Bowl: Units of Measure

Welcome, participants, to the AMA Manual of Style Quiz Bowl. Every month at, we offer subscribers a quiz on different aspects of the manual that help participants master AMA style and improve their editing skills. Previous quizzes have covered topics as varied as correct and preferred usage, genetics, tables, figures, and ethics, as well as numerous other subjects. In this blog, we will offer a sample question from each month’s quiz to whet your appetite. This month’s quiz is on Units of Measure: Format, Style, and Punctuation. So, here goes.

Edit the following sentence based on your understanding of section 18.3 of the AMA Manual of Style.

A total of 50 mg of etanercept were administered subcutaneously twice weekly for 12 weeks.

Well, how did you do? Did you identify the problem? Here’s the answer (use your mouse to highlight the text box):

A total of 50 mg of etanercept was administered subcutaneously twice weekly for 12 weeks.

Units of measure are treated as collective singular (not plural) nouns and require a singular verb (§18.3.3, Subject-Verb Agreement, p 791 in print).

So, did you enjoy this tidbit? If you are not sated, subscribe to the AMA Manual of Style online and take the full quiz.—Laura King, MA, ELS

Questions From Users of the Manual

Q:  Do you recommend end point or endpoint?  I have folks dying on their grammatical swords over this and thought you might have an opinion.

A:  We follow Dorland’s and use end point.  Replying quickly so as little blood as possible is shed.

Q:  I failed to find guidance in the Manual on correct use of the apostrophe with plural compound nouns, eg, the possessive of mothers-in-law.  What would you advise?

A:  You are quite right that we don’t include any examples that address this specifically and it would be helpful to do so.  (A thought for the next edition—or an annotation for section 8.7.3 if you are an online subscriber.)  I would recommend mothers-in-law’s, as in mothers-in-law’s first meeting.  The Chicago Manual of Style also recommends this (section 7.23):  my sons-in-law’s addresses.

Q:  Where is the style going on the treatment of Web site?  We use Web site but are seeing it more and more frequently as website, or web site, or Website.

A:  JAMA and the Archives Journals are still sticking with Web site, but the new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is recommending website.  So, it appears that things are, indeed, shifting but we have not shifted yet!

Q:  We’re having a debate about the order of footnotes in a table.  Are they ordered left to right, top to bottom?  Or are they ordered by where they fall in terms of the table components (eg, title, column heading, row heading, field) and then left to right, top to bottom?

A:  There’s a great example in the Manual on on page 93 (Table 10).  In that table, which has a raft of footnotes, you’ll see that the order is basically from top to bottom and, within that, from left to right…as we expect readers would move through a table as they were reading it.  That said, there is nothing sacred about this and a publication could certainly establish a different policy (eg, with the table body, priority could be given to footnotes attached to table stubs, so that if you had footnotes a and b in stubs high up in the table and then footnotes c, d, and e in rows below this but NOT in the table stubs, and then footnote f in a later stub, you might decide to make the stub footnotes a through c [renaming f to c] and then the footnotes within the body of the table d through f. )—Cheryl Iverson, MA


In everyday usage, apostrophe denotes the punctuation mark used to form the possessive case of nouns, to form possessive adjectives, to indicate the omission of one or more letters in a contraction, and to form plurals of such items as letters, signs, or symbols. Simple, yes? Apparently not. Incorrect use of this seemingly innocuous little jot has become rampant. For example, writers frequently confuse the contraction “it’s” with the possessive “its” — it seems that users of the apostrophe have lost sight of it’s proper use, and its so sad. Another example is when writers use the apostrophe to form the plural of a noun — a usage termed the greengrocer’s apostrophe, presumably owing to its prevalence at one time in grocery signage advertising sale prices on, for example, apple’s, banana’s, and orange’s. While the rise of edited, corporation-issued supermarket signage has rendered use of the greengrocer’s apostrophe more rare in that context than it once was, it now enjoys a wide popularity in other written materials, most noticeably in do-it-yourself advertising copy hawking everything from car’s to hot dog’s to stereo’s — a burgeoning phenomenon that has given rise to another term, apostrophitis.

Apart from this everyday denotation, apostrophe also denotes a rhetorical figure of speech in which a speaker or writer suddenly breaks off narration to direct speech elsewhere, often to exclaim or to convey heightened emotion — as, for example, when a driver conversing with a passenger suddenly breaks into an impassioned aside directed to a recalcitrant automobile, a pedestrian, or the driver of another vehicle. In its original usage, an apostrophe was directed to a person present. However, over time, the meaning has broadened to include speech directed to a person or persons either present, absent, or deceased; to a personified material object; or to an idea or other abstract quality. In poetry or narrative prose, an apostrophe often begins with the word “O”: “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, II.2); “O eloquent, just, and mighty Death!” (Sir Walter Raleigh, A Historie of the World). — Phil Sefton, ELS

See 8.7.2 (page 362 in the print book).