Please enjoy this clever (if lengthy) New Yorker piece on the incredible comma, serial and otherwise.
Q: I know that when citing an editorial from a journal, you insert “[editorial]” after the title and before a period. If the editorial’s title ends with a question mark, would you still insert “[editorial]” before the question mark? It seems more appropriate to insert it afterward since the question mark is integral to the title.
A: The short answer to your question is yes. You would insert “[editorial]” before the question mark that ends the title. (See the first example under section 3.11.10, which illustrates this.) I understand that the question mark is integral to the title, but the enclosure of the department name/feature (ie, editorial) in brackets makes it clear that this is not a part of the title.
Q: I am uncertain whether to use a hyphen or an en dash for negative values in a table within an abstract.
A: For negative values, AMA style is to use minus signs, not en dashes or hyphens. There is a minus sign symbol in Word. Under Insert Symbol, it’s called Minus Sign and it’s Unicode number 2212. For ranges, we would use the word to as in −70 to −60.
Q: Does JAMA Network style recommend listing candidate degrees?
A: No, it does not. If the degree has not yet been earned, we do not publish it. Our rationale is that the candidate might not complete the degree for some reason (death, failure) and so we recommend waiting until the degree is conferred before listing it.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Recently, a user of the AMA Manual of Style wrote to us with questions about how to edit web references. As we worked to answer her questions, we discovered that although the manual provides instructions and examples for editing web references, the task can often make an editor feel like the proverbial fly trapped in the web of the spider.
One reason for this feeling is that it is often difficult to discern the types of materials available on websites. For example, delineating between authors and publishers as well as books or reports and journal-type articles can be challenging. Therefore, this month’s Style Book Quiz is on editing web references. Answers have been determined by extrapolating from the information in the AMA Manual of Style.
As an introduction to the full quiz, edit the following web reference:
Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents, Department of Health and Human Services. http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/lvguidelines/adultandadolescentgl.pdf. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Highlight for the answer: Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services. http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/lvguidelines/adultandadolescentgl.pdf. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Often government reports provide a suggested citation format. In this case, the suggested citation (as indicated on the bottom of the title page of the report) is as follows: Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/ContentFiles/AdultandAdolescentGL.pdf. Section accessed [insert date] [insert page number, table number, etc, if applicable].
This style is close to AMA style and can be adapted to it by removing “Available at” and adding “US” before “Department of Health and Human Services.” In addition, one of the questions that arises with web publications is whether to style a title as a book title (initial capital letters and italicized type) or journal title (only the first word of the title capitalized and roman type). According to the AMA Manual of Style (§3.15.5), government/organization reports “are treated much like electronic journal and book references: use journal style for articles and book style for monographs.” In this case, the manuscript is a 282-page PDF document, so it is appropriate to style the title as a book title. Because the manuscript contains no publication date, this information cannot be included in the reference.
The full quiz (available to subscribers at www.amamanualofstyle.com) provides more examples of web material that may be difficult to reference. Can we tempt you to try? Or as the spider said to the fly, “Will you walk into my parlour?”1—Laura King, MA, ELS
- Howitt M. The Spider and the Fly. http://famousliteraryworks.com/howitt_the_spider_and_the_fly_funny.htm. Accessed December 10, 2014.
These 2 terms are not interchangeable, although reticent is occasionally seen in informal usage as an imprecise synonym for reluctant.
Reluctant refers to someone who feels or shows doubt about doing something, not willing or eager, or feeling or showing aversion. Synonyms are disinclined, dubious, hesitant, loath.
Dr Smythe was reluctant to share his preliminary, non–peer-reviewed research with the news media.
Reticent refers to someone who does not reveal his or her thoughts or feelings readily and is restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance. Synonyms are reserved, withdrawn, introverted, inhibited, diffident, shy, uncommunicative.
Professor Harrington has been described by colleagues and friends as “shy and reticent” but is also well known for his poise and calm demeanor during a medical emergency.
—Roxanne K. Young, ELS
Wondering what to give your favorite copy editor this holiday season? How about a copy of the new Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers? The eighth edition of the CSE manual, published this year (2014), is an updated, modernized version of the manual all editors turn to for science and technology style matters.
The eighth edition of the CSE manual is organized into 4 parts: Publishing Fundamentals, General Style Conventions, Special Scientific Conventions, and Technical Elements of Publication. Each of these parts has been revised and expanded from the seventh edition. In part 1 (Publishing Fundamentals), information has been added on abstracts, online databases and repositories, responsibilities of publishers, copyright basics, and creative common licenses. In part 2 (General Style Conventions), a new section on active vs passive voice has been added, and the section on “Numbers, Units, Mathematical Expressions, and statistics” has been significantly revised and reorganized. In part 3 (Special Scientific Conventions), several of the nomenclature chapters have been updated, including information on chemical kinetics and thermodynamics, analytical chemistry, astronomical objects and time systems, and genes, chromosomes, and related molecules, and the section has been reorganized by subject as opposed to science. In part 4 (Technical Elements of Publication), significant changes have been made to modernize the language and include new types of publication formats.
Some of the specific changes in the 8th edition of the CSE manual that are pertinent to the working copy editor are as follows:
- app (abbreviation for apparent)
- f (not fl as abbreviation for fluid)
- Use of the citation-sequence format for reference citations
- Use of commas not thin spaces in numbers (1,000, 10,000, 100,000; not 1000, 10 000, 100 000)
Another advantage to the eighth edition of the CSE manual is that it is now, for the first time, available in both print and online versions (www.scientificstyleandformat.org). Online subscribers will not only be able to perform full-text searches of the manual but also have access to the Chicago Manual of Style Online forum.
Weighing in at 722 pages, Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 8th Edition, is too large to stuff in a stocking but would serve nicely as a holiday gift. If gift giving isn’t your style, pick up a copy for yourself and add this essential scientific style manual to your personal bookcase.—Laura King, MA, ELS
Q: I am used to writing “compared with” when discussing results/measurements. Can you please comment on whether this is correct?
A: This is addressed in the glossary in chapter 11. See “compare to, compare with.” You’ll see there that “compare with” is usually used when the aim is to examine similarities or differences in detail.
Q: I was trained in other settings to ignore having to write out the state on first mention if the city is well known, especially if the readership is primarily American. For example, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would not require adding the state name on first mention. Something like Spring Green would. What would AMA style require?
A: Please see section 14.5, where this is addressed in detail. The key sentence is this: “At first mention, the name of a state, territory, possession, province, or country should be spelled out when it follows the name of a city.” In earlier editions, we used to follow a policy something like what you describe but changed that as it was a matter of opinion what was “well known” and what was not. Also, with the international readership of so many publications, this becomes a trickier question.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
One of the challenges for medical editors is to synthesize a great deal of information into clear, readable prose. To accomplish this task, we often have to wade through a murky bog of confusing comparisons, run-on sentences, or large amounts of data. We must tread lightly so as not to distort the meaning of the text or the accuracy of the data, but tread we must.
This month’s style quiz gives users the opportunity to practice their editing skills in a more substantive manner. The quiz provides 6 examples of convoluted text that require a fine editorial hand. The following is one example from the quiz:
Adolescent participants (aged 13-17 years) were recruited from 9 pediatric and family medicine clinics located in 3 urban areas in Washington State in the Group Health system from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011, that were selected because of their greater patient diversity and higher number of adolescent patients.
Highlight for answer:
Adolescent participants (aged 13-17 years) were recruited from 9 pediatric and family medicine clinics in the Group Health system from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011. Clinics located in 3 urban areas in Washington State were selected for their greater patient diversity and higher number of adolescent patients.
Obviously, there are numerous ways to edit the original sentence. We provide just one example of many. Perhaps you found an even better way; if so, leave us a comment.
If you’re interested in more practice, check out the full quiz on the AMA Manual of Style website.—Laura King, MA, ELS
To pass the time between stylebook editions, the JAMA Network staff keep an in-house file of little tips, tricks, guidelines, and style changes that have occurred since the last time the manual was published. Here is a small peek inside that file—2 things from this past summer.
The terms multivariable and multivariate are not synonymous, as the entries in the Glossary of Statistical Terms suggest (Chapter 20.9, page 881 in the print). To be accurate, multivariable refers to multiple predictors (independent variables) for a single outcome (dependent variable). Multivariate refers to 1 or more independent variables for multiple outcomes. (This update was implemented June 1, 2014.)
Cross-section, as a verb or adjective should be capped in titles as Cross-section; cross section as a noun should be capped in titles as Cross Section. (This update was implemented August 4, 2014).—Brenda Gregoline, with help from John McFadden