Everybody Tweet Now

Confession time: I have a bit of a Twitter problem. I follow over 1200 different accounts, and probably add another each day. I am not enough of a photographer, or even enough of a visually oriented person, for Instagram. Facebook increasingly annoys me with its endless ads and its “pivot to video.” (WHY.) Twitter is where I’m going to spend (or waste, depending on your point of view) most of my screwing-around-online time.

Sometimes I just let the Twitter timeline wash over me in one big stream, and enjoy the crazy, constantly updated mix of content. But because I follow a lot of accounts, I also make use of lists. I’ve got a list for “breaking news,” a list for Chicago-centric stuff, a “literary” list, with my favorite writers and magazines, and lists for hockey and football. (Go Hawks/Bears!)

(And of course: Make sure you follow the AMA Manual of Style! Follow @AMAManual! Or forever drift, rudderless, through a sea of regret!)

I also follow several novelty accounts, just for the laughs, like the one that tells you every Wednesday that it is Wednesday. With a Budgett’s frog.

Okay, that’s silly (albeit awesome). However, it occurred to me that a few of those novelty accounts are (vaguely) (very vaguely) editing-related. For instance, I follow That’s Not A Word (@nixicon), where a dedicated linguistics scholar laboriously retweets instances of people on Twitter claiming something is not a word.


(For an entertaining, conducted-over-Twitter argument about something not being a word, see the Language Log’s summary of the dust-up between linguist Ben Zimmer (@bgzimmer) and The Atlantic about whether “gift” can be a verb. (Spoiler: of course it can.)

And finally, just for the delicious irony: it’s always nice to see @whostheidiotnow pop up in my feed, an account that collects and retweets people who say “your [sic] an idiot” to other people on Twitter. Warning: there are a LOT of idiots out there. Apparently.—Brenda Gregoline, ELS



Questions From Users of the Manual

Q: Are arabic numerals used for measures of time:  years, months, weeks?

A: I’m assuming you are asking about using numerals vs words.  The short answer is yes; we use arabic numerals for years, months, and weeks.  But if you should also be curious about the use of  arabic vs roman numerals, see section 19.7.5; and for specific nomenclature conventions, see chapter 15.

Q: Do you have a style for citing tweets?

A: Our blog addressed this query on August 23, 2011.  Please take a look at this archived entry.

Q: How do you handle the word continued when it’s used after a title of a table that runs over onto a second page?

A: We don’t address this specifically in the manual, but if you look at one of the longest tables in the manual (the big SI conversion table in chapter 18) you will see that we used “(cont).”  Since then, however, in our own publications, we have switched to spelling the word out (“continued”) to better serve international readers (who may not recognize cont as a “familiar” abbreviation).

Q: If there is a “compound” acronym/abbreviation defined first in a manuscript (eg, chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase [CML-CP]) and, later in the same manuscript, just CML is required, should CML be redefined or did the first definition cover it?

A: Good question.  AMA Manual of Style authors agree that there is no need to expand a component of an already introduced compound abbreviation.  For instance, after introducing ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), there is no need to expand MI.  In your example, there is no need to treat CML as a new abbreviation.—Cheryl Iverson, MA

Citing Electronic Editions: or, Getting on the Same Page

Copyediting.com recently posted a tip on how to cite a book read on a Kindle or other similar e-reader,1 noting that with the lack of page numbers in such electronic editions this was a “peculiarity” that editors could use guidance on. They provided the guidance offered by the Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. They noted that the AMA Manual of Style was “quiet on the subject.”

Not liking to remain quiet for long, Stacy Christiansen, our manual’s “Tweeter,” sent a tweet2 using the same example used in the Copyediting.com tip. To wit:

Barr C; senior editors at Yahoo. Shape your text for online reading. In: The Yahoo Style Guide. Kindle ed. New York, NY: St Martins Griffin; 2010.

Tweets don’t allow much space to delve into the finer points, such as how multiple specific citations in this book could be referenced in a single manuscript, which would also help readers who are not seeking the citation on a Kindle find the specific citation. Here is a little more information for a more specific citation, indicating not only the chapter name but also the paragraph number within the chapter:

Barr C; senior editors at Yahoo. Shape your text for online reading. In: The Yahoo Style Guide. Kindle ed. New York, NY: St Martins Griffin; 2010:¶1.

An article in the New York Times3 indicated that this question is of interest to more than manuscript editors—for example, to members of a book group, some of whom read the book under discussion in print and others of whom read it on an electronic reader, but all of whom want to be able to be “on the same page” when they are discussing the book. Furthermore, this desire has been taken seriously by Amazon, which markets the Kindle. The article noted that the Kindle “will now supplement its ‘location numbers’ with page numbers that correspond to physical books.”

Bravo, we might say. The author of the article, however, offers a different perspective by saying that the attempt to “incorporate cues to keep people grounded in what has come before [eg, the page number] or scrap convention completely” is a dilemma for designers of these new technologies. So, as we leap to the future, some of us still find it useful to keep one foot in the not-so-distant past. And there’s a word for that (also noted in the article): skeuomorphs. Long may we live and long may we leap (with glee but caution).—Cheryl Iverson, MA

1. Nichols W. Copyediting Tip of the Week: Citing electronic editions. Copyediting blog. Posted January 18, 2011. http://www.copyediting.com/copyediting-tip-week-citing-electronic-editions. Accessed May 7, 2012.

2. To cite an e-reader. http://twitter.com/AMAManual/status/32154562768928768. Posted January 31, 2011. Accessed May 7, 2012.

3. Brustein J. Why innovation doffs an old hat: Breakthroughs like the Kindle and the iPad retain cues to keep users grounded in what came before. New York Times. February 13, 2011;Week in Review:2.

Citations a-Twitter

The dizzying speed at which technology has been evolving often leaves those of us entrenched in the world of crediting sources and editing reference lists running to keep up. We have standard citation formats for Web sites (§3.15), publish ahead of print articles (§3.15.1), and e-reader content (Tweet on January 31, 2011). Those of us who edit scientific content do not regularly (if ever) come across a citation to Twitter. That does not mean, however, that Twitter does not offer anything useful to science writers and editors. Government agencies, scientific journals, researchers, and others involved in publishing Tweet constantly.

How, then, should one cite a Tweet? In deciding AMA style position on this, we first had to resolve whether Twitter constituted a standard citable source or was more in the realm of “personal communications” (such as e-mail). We agreed that Twitter does belong in the citations list because it’s in the public domain, anyone can follow the Tweets of a journal or agency, and the individual posts are maintained by date with a lasting link. In addition, the US Library of Congress is to begin archiving all public Tweets, ensuring their searchability and permanence (http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-081.html).

The second decision we had to make was what should be included in the citation. Our final Twitter citation style is based on that of a regular Web site reference:

1. @AMAManual. Many now accept “data” as singular. However, JAMA & Archives Journals retain the use of the plural verb with “data.” http://t.co/auYSgGb. http://twitter.com/#!/AMAManual/status/94117252009431040. Posted July 21, 2011.

2. @AMAManual. Style update! “CI” no longer requires expansion at first mention in AMA Style. So, 95% CI instead of 95% confidence interval (CI). http://twitter.com/#!/AMAManual/status/96287318616440833. Posted July 27, 2011.

In the first position is the author, in this case the “handle” or username on Twitter (@AMAManual). Then follows the full Tweet, the URL of that post (found by clicking on the date stamp), and finally the date of posting.

For those writing and editing in the social and behavioral sciences, the APA style blog also has addressed the citation of Twitter (http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/10/how-to-cite-twitter-and-facebook-part-ii.html).

We hope this can help avoid citations sounding like a cacophony of Angry Birds.—Stacy L. Christiansen, MA