Check out this post from Skeptical Scalpel about uncool tricks with statistical graphs. Editors beware!—Brenda Gregoline, ELS
Q: I note in the manual that you do not require the use of the registered trademark symbol with brand names, as long as an initial capital letter is used (see 5.6.16, Use of Trademark Names in Publication). Does this guideline apply to copy in medical books as well as medical journals?
A: You are right that our manual does not encourage the use of the little “R” in a circle or the superscript TM to denote trademarks but rather relies on the initial cap to signify a trademark. As to what style would apply to books (medical or other), it really all comes down to what style the book publisher uses. The Chicago Manual of Style (section 8.152) states: “Although the symbols [cap R in a circle and superscript TM] for registered and unregistered trademarks, respectively) often accompany trademark names on product packaging and in promotional material, there is no legal requirement to use these symbols, and they should be omitted wherever possible.”
I think you would be fairly safe in zapping the symbol and just using the initial cap, unless the style guide you are following in editing a book dictates otherwise.
Q: What do you recommend re capitalization for something like the word “test” or “examination” or “questionnaire” in names of specific tests, examinations, or questionnaires?
A: Our style manual (section 10.3.8) advises the following regarding capping the “t” on “test” when it follows the name of a specific test. I would extrapolate from this to cover similar questions.
Tests. The exact and complete titles of tests and subscales of tests should be capitalized. The word test is not usually capitalized except when it is part of the official name of the test. Always verify exact names of any tests with the author or with reference sources.
Examples where a cap would be correct include the Mini-Mental State Examination and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Q: My colleagues and I are debating the correctness of the following sentence: If any of the side effects gets serious, contact the study doctor.
A: If you remove the words “of the” from your sentence, you will find the answer(s) readily apparent. If there is one side effect, you’d use the singular: “If any side effect becomes serious….” If there is more than one side effect, you’d use the plural: If any side effects become serious….”
Q: Should “week” or “weeks” be used in the following sentences?
The changes in serum creatinine remained stable from week/weeks 48 to 96.
Nausea typically develops between the fourth and sixth week/weeks of pregnancy.
A: We would suggest using “weeks” in both examples. It would, of course, not be incorrect to repeat “week,” eg, “…at week 48 and week 96,” but for efficiency you could use “…at weeks 48 and 96.”—Cheryl Iverson, MA
tr, swk, wf, lc.
No, the vowel keys haven’t fallen off my laptop keyboard. Those are just a few examples from this month’s quiz on editing and proofreading marks. Although most editing and proofreading are now performed electronically, corrections still sometimes need to be marked on printed manuscripts and typeset copy. Because of this, editors need to be able to identify and use correct editing and proofreading marks.
Although most editors are familiar with marks such as stet, for let it stand, and Au?, for author query, some of the other editing and proofreading marks can occasionally cause confusion. This month’s AMA Manual of Style quiz offers a sampling of these marks to test your knowledge.
Included in the quiz are the meanings of the vowelless list above: tr, swk, wf, lc.
Highlight for the meanings of these marks: tr, transpose; swk, set when known; wf, wrong font; lc, lowercase.
To test your knowledge of additional editing and proofreading marks, check out this month’s quiz at www.amamanualofstyle.com.—Laura King, MA, ELS
Q: I cannot find anything in the AMA Manual of Style about how to cite an article in a magazine. Please help.
A: You are correct that we do not address citations to magazines, primarily because the material we focus on is more scholarly. However, you could extrapolate from the information on how to cite a journal article (see section 3.11). Here is an example of citation of a magazine article:
Angell R. This old man: life in the nineties. New Yorker. February 17&24, 2014:60-65.
You’ll notice that although we prefer giving the year;volume number(issue number):inclusive pages in our citations to journal articles, some magazines do not use volume and issue numbers but instead rely on the issue date. This seems to be true of the New Yorker, and this article was in a double issue, so you’ll see that I have suggested using issue date:inclusive page numbers.
Q: What is the best way to send a question to you regarding the content of the style manual?
A: You may write to the style manual at email@example.com.
Q: For package insert references, many times the manufacturer and marketing company are the same. However, if they are not, which company should be listed in the reference citation?
A: It might be helpful in the case of a manufacturer and a marketer to list both. In this case, you could separate them by a semicolon:
Onglyza [package insert]. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co; Wilmington, DE: AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP; July 2009.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
You asked and we listened! This month’s style quiz once again gives users the chance to practice their editing skills in a more in-depth manner. Previous quizzes on prose editing, as well as editing figures and tables, aimed to fill this need, but you still want more. So, here you go.
This month’s quiz is a full paragraph that requires editing to eliminate usage and style errors. Below is the first sentence of the paragraph. See if you can identify the problems.
We report a young patient who presented with dysphagia caused by a right aortic arch, aberrant left subclavian artery, and associated Kommerell’s diverticulum.
Highlight for answer: We describe a young patient who presented with dysphagia caused by a right aortic arch, aberrant left subclavian artery, and associated Kommerell diverticulum.
According to the AMA Manual of Style, both patients and cases are described; only cases are reported (§11.1, Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases, pp 381-405 in print). In addition, the nonpossessive form should be used for eponymous terms (§16.2, Nonpossessive Form, pp 778-780 in print).
If you’re interested in more practice, check out the full quiz, as well as the Prose Editing 1, Practice Editing Tables, and Figures quizzes, on the AMA Manual of Style website.
And if there are any other quizzes you want to see, just ask. We promise we’ll listen.—Laura King, MA, ELS
When I was in high school, I liked to do my homework at the kitchen table. Invariably I’d come across a word that I wasn’t 100% sure I understood or, even more often, a word for which I wasn’t 100% sure of the spelling. Mom was close at hand in the kitchen, so she was my first resource. Handy and reliable too. After I’d asked her about 3 questions, she’d say, “Why don’t you go look it up?” Not as convenient, but I knew when I’d reached my mom’s limit!
Recently I asked a friend of mine with 2 grown children if there were any oft-repeated words of wisdom she remembered offering her kids as they were growing up. One of the first things she remembered was “Don’t guess. Look it up.” Of course, she’s a librarian, so this is an answer designed to foster good research habits in later life…as well as reserve a few moments of peace and quiet for one’s own pursuits.
Now here we are in a time when the encyclopedia salesperson no longer makes house calls, trying to sell a many-volume set of hardcover books. Instead, we have the smartphone. Now, looking it up is a snap. In fact, it’s almost an addiction.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
I have a “tween” daughter who is interested in sports, Minecraft, YouTube, wildlife conservation, and believing that she knows everything—not necessarily in that order. If I had been a parent 20 years ago, I might have been able to let the dubious or improbable-sounding facts she spouts off during breakfast slide by with a murmured, motherly, “mmmmm.” I might have been able to respond to questions about why Pluto is no longer a planet, how much would it cost to fly from Chicago to Ulaanbataar, or what is the total length of stretched-out human intestines with “I don’t know” or “Go look it up.”
But I am lucky enough to be a tech-connected parent in 2014, and I can know! The phone is in my pocket, the iPad is on the counter, the desktop is steps away! We can look it up together! (Short answers for the curious: too small, orbit too irregular; about $4000 for the 3 of us; and between 15 and 30 feet, depending on your anatomy.) Along the way, I have managed to sneak in a few meta-lessons to my daughter about critical thinking and what constitutes trustworthy information on the internet. You can’t believe everything you read!
Deciding on “screen time” allowances, finding the balance between work and home, and remembering never to put pixels over people are things we all have to navigate. But I have to admit that our “no devices at the dinner table” rule has a “let’s look it up” loophole—ready access to knowledge has solved arguments, taught us new facts, and livened up many a family conversation.— Brenda Gregoline
Q: Do superscript reference numbers go before or after colons? What about periods and commas?
A: Superscript reference numbers go before colons and semicolons and after commas and periods. See section 3.6.
Q: When will the next edition of the AMA Manual of Style be published?
A: We have begun work on the next (11th) edition but do not yet have a projected publication date. I think 2016 is realistic. In the meantime, I hope you avail yourself of the online updates, which provide policy changes, etc. Those are free, if you do not have an online subscription. The monthly quizzes (which are free to subscribers) are also a good way (between editions) to see more examples.
Q: On PowerPoint slides, how do you recommend citing reference sources: on each slide that is not the presenter’s own, or at the end of the presentation?
A: At present, our style manual does not address style questions related to PowerPoint presentations; however, we are considering adding a few guidelines on this in the next edition. For now, I would suggest adding the reference sources on each slide, as a footer. Because the slides are likely to be pulled apart from the entire presentation and used by others, having the source with the content seems advisable.—Cheryl Iverson, MA
Correctly abbreviating journal names in a long reference list is often like trying to create words from a bowl of alphabet soup—all the letters are there, but arranging them can be a messy business. The AMA Manual of Style recommends that journal names be abbreviated according to the guidelines of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Single-word journal titles are not abbreviated. For example, the journal Toxicology should not be abbreviated even though the word toxicology would be abbreviated in journal names of more than one word, such as Journal of Applied Toxicology, which would be abbreviated J Appl Toxicol. The NLM guidelines also state that articles, conjunctions, prepositions, punctuation, and diacritical marks are omitted in the abbreviated title form. Therefore, the word of in the journal name Journal of Applied Toxicology is eliminated.
That’s straightforward enough, but, as with all editing, there are exceptions. Some journals prefer to use single-word abbreviations rather than standard abbreviations, such as JAMA instead of J Am Med Assoc for Journal of the American Medical Association, BMJ instead of Br Med J for British Medical Journal, and BJOG instead of Br J Obstet Gynaecol for British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
This month’s Stylebook Quiz offers the opportunity to practice abbreviating journal names in sample references. See how you do with the following:
Zimmer Z, Martin LG, Jones BL, Nagin DS. Examining late-life functional limitation trajectories and their associations with underlying onset, recovery, and mortality. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Journals of Gerontology. 2014;69(2):275-286.
Highlight for the answer:
Zimmer Z, Martin LG, Jones BL, Nagin DS. Examining late-life functional limitation trajectories and their associations with underlying onset, recovery, and mortality. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014;69(2):275-286.
The correct journal name is Journals of Gerontology, Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. The correct journal abbreviation is J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (§14.10, Names of Journals, pp 472-500 in print).
If you’re interested in additional practice abbreviating journal names, check out this month’s quiz at www.amamanualofstyle.com.—Laura King, MA, ELS
No one appreciates Rannie Bookman. Only a short while ago she was the toast of New York for having solved the mystery of the Chapel School murder (in Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth), but now the media frenzy has faded, and Rannie is just another unemployed and underappreciated freelance copy editor.
There’s no denying it. Rannie is in a slump. She hasn’t felt this low since she was fired from her job at Simon and Schuster for approving a reprint of the Nancy Drew book The Secret of the Old Clock with a crucial letter missing in the last word. Her family thinks she just needs to get back to work. “You’re not Nancy Drew. You’re a copy editor. Stick to that,” her boyfriend Tim tells her. So, when her friend Ellen from Simon and Schuster calls to offer her some freelance work, Rannie jumps at the chance. Maybe this will give her a sense of purpose again. But mystery repeats itself when Rannie’s work leads her into dangerous territory in Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Tells All.
In this second book in the Rannie Bookman series, written by Jane O’Connor, Ellen offers Rannie a job copyediting a tell-all book about aged socialite Charlotte Cummings written by the gossip-wielding biographer Ret Sullivan. Rannie is intrigued, not only with the subject but also with the author. Ret Sullivan was renowned for destroying careers and lives with her books, but Ret’s own life was ravaged when an Oscar-winning actor who she revealed to be a child molester had thrown lye in her face, leaving her horribly disfigured. Even if Rannie didn’t need the work, this assignment was too intriguing to pass up.
So Rannie accepts the job and heads over to Ret’s apartment on the Upper East Side of New York to collect the manuscript. However, on arriving at Ret’s apartment, Rannie gets more than she bargained for when she discovers Ret tied to her bed and strangled with a Hermès scarf. And Ret is just the first life the murderer claims. How can Rannie resist? It’s not her fault murder mysteries practically drop in her lap.
As Rannie starts to sleuth, she is led into the extravagant, moneyed world of high society. She is far from her own world of humble apartments, greasy diners, and working class bars, but she is in her element when it comes to hard-to-crack murder cases. Rannie has found her purpose once again.
Like Dangerous Admissions, Almost True Confessions is replete with details that will charm copy editors. Rannie is still the heroine with an editor’s sensibility and a proofreader’s eye. She still considers her words, and the words of others, carefully: “It flickered through Rannie’s mind that paranoia was by definition never justifiable; however, she held her tongue.” She still expertly knows her parts of speech: “No, no, no. ‘Less’ is an adverb, not an adjective. Far fewer friends visited, and they came less often.” She is still skilled in word usage: “You’re referring to distance, so it’s farther apart, chided the picky grammar cop lodged in Rannie’s brain. ‘Further’ was for abstract mulling.” She is still in love with all things editing: “Then, too, there were all the wonderful arcane marks and symbols of copyediting. Insertion carets, transposition squiggles, underlining for italics, triple underlining for capitalization. It was like knowing a secret code.”
As Rannie and her creator Jane O’Connor (a long-time editor herself) know, this secret code is not appreciated by everyone. O’Connor writes, “Copyediting was an unglamorous job in publishing. Acquiring editors on the prowl for future Pulitzers and National Book Awards dismissed Rannie and her stickler ilk as the Grammar Gestapo, nothing more than human spellcheckers.” But as Rannie exemplifies, a love of language and a facility in manipulating it can serve you well in all parts of your life. In Rannie’s case, her talents lead her to solve mysteries.
As in Dangerous Admissions, Rannie uses the insight and problem-solving skills gained from years of copy editing work to identify the murderer in Almost True Confessions. She’s not a trained investigator. She’s not a law enforcement professional. She’s just a copy editor with intense focus and a sharp mind. Rannie is the type of heroine that gives copy editors the appreciation they deserve.—Laura King, MA, ELS