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AMA Style Tip Sheet

The AMA Manual of Style is quite the voluminous tome. The most recent 11th edition is easily searchable online, but the large volume of information covered can still be daunting. Below are a few things to look for when editing your pieces.

Download a Word doc version here

 

1.    Write Drug Names Correctly

  • The nonproprietary (generic) name should appear first, with the proprietary (brand) name capitalized and in parentheses.
    • The patient was receiving atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • The symbol ® or the letters TM or SM should not be used in scientific journal articles or references, but the initial letter of a trademarked word should be capitalized.

More information 14.4.3 Proprietary Names

2.     Check P Values and Confidence Intervals

Use an italicized capital P, followed by a thin space, then the mathematical sign (=, <, >, ≤, or ≥), another thin space, then a decimal (without a “0”) before the decimal. To create a thin space in Word, select the space, then go to format -> font -> advanced, and then select “condensed” set at 1 pt under character spacing. These instructions are for a Mac but are similar for a PC.

Examples of P values (cut and paste these examples, which include thin spaces)

P = .01, P < .05, P > .01, P ≤ .05, P ≥ .001

Examples of confidence intervals including P values

Those patients with at least a master’s degree (46.1% [95% CI, 38.3%-53.9%]; P = .01) or a high level of health literacy (47.3% [95% CI, 40.7%-54.0%]; P = .03) were less likely to have participated.

Smoking was associated with a 3.5-fold increase in risk of mortality (HR, 3.5; 95% CI, 2-6; P < .001).

Positive and Negative CIs

  • Separate CIs with a hyphen (-) when both numbers are positive
    • (95% CI, 0.70-0.87)
  • Separate with “to” when one or both numbers are negative and use an en dash (–) for the minus sign (not a hyphen [-])
    • (95% CI, –7.2 to –1.0) or (95% CI, –6.2 to 3.0)

More information 4.1.8 Numbers

3.    Check for Use of Inclusive Language

There’s a lot to consider when writing about gender, sex, age, ethnicity, and other demographic

information. Please see 11.12 Inclusive Language. Some important considerations are as follows:

  • Avoid labeling people with their disabilities or diseases (eg, diabetics, epileptics); instead, use patients with diabetes, patients with epilepsy.
  • Avoid describing persons as victims or using other emotional terms that suggest helplessness (eg, afflicted with, suffering from).
  • Avoid euphemistic descriptors, such as physically challenged, special, or special needs.
  • Avoid using stereotypic descriptors of age, such as the elderly or seniors. Preferred terms include “older persons” or “persons 65 years of age and older.”
  • Avoid the use of language that imparts bias against persons or groups on the basis of gender or sex, race or ethnicity, age, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation. When in doubt, query the author. Avoid using the term non, such as nonwhite; instead, be as specific as possible.
  • Recent update: The terms “Black” and “White” should be used as modifiers not as nouns and should be capitalized.
  • No need to call out gender or sex unless it is relevant. For example, no need to call someone a chairwoman—just use chairperson.

4.    Know the Different Types of Dashes

Em Dash (—)

  • Use an em dash to indicate a marked or pronounced interruption or break in thought.
    • He was going to buy a—what did you say she wanted for her birthday?
  • An em dash may also be used in place of a colon or to separate a reference clause from its subject.
    • Psoriatic arthritis and Alzheimer’s—these were the two diseases she feared the most.
  • The 2-em dash (——) is used to indicate missing letters in a word.
  • The 3-em dash (———) is used to indicate missing words in a sentence.

En Dash (–)

  • In complex modifying phrases, combinations of hyphens and en dashes are sometimes used to avoid ambiguity. The hyphen links the words that are most related in meaning.
    • Hematoxylin-eosin–stained biopsy specimens
    • Non–small-cell carcinoma (this can also be written with a sole hyphen, but note the different positioning of the hyphen: “non-small cell carcinoma”)

Hyphen (-)

  • Hyphenate an adjective-noun compound when it precedes and modifies another noun but not when it follows the noun.
    • High-quality health care (BUT the health care was high quality [no hyphen]).
  • Some compound adjectival phrases are hyphenated even when they come after the noun they modify.
    • She was feeling middle-aged at that point in her life.

More information 8.3 Hyphens and Dashes

5.    Use Academic Degrees and Honors Correctly

  • Academic degrees are abbreviated in bylines and in the text when used with the full name of a person.
  • Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the person’s name but not when it follows the name.
    • Program Chair Rose Bennett called the meeting to order.
    • Rose Bennett was named program chair in 2020.
    • Principal Investigator John Janus, MD, reported the study findings.
    • Dr Janus served as principal investigator.
  • Do not use both an honorific and an academic degree with a person’s name: eg, do not write Dr John Smith, MD.
  • When using “Dr” do not use a period (Dr not Dr.).
  • Do not use periods in degrees, eg, MD, PhD, PharmD.

More information 13.6 Names and Titles of Persons and 13.1 Academic Degrees and Honors

6.    Check Numerals and Units of Measure

Examples of correctly written units include the following: μg/L; mL/kg/min; m2, m3, 2200 g, 250 mg, 20 dL, 32 L. Note the space between numeral and unit.

  • Commas are not used in larger numbers. In 4-digit numbers (eg, 8923) do not include a comma. For numbers of 10 000 or greater, a thin space is used to separate every 3 digits starting from the right-most integer (or, in numbers with decimals, from the left of the decimal point). Note: In practice, a comma is often used in place of the thin space—refer to your client’s style guide.
  • Write out fractions and include a hyphen: one-fourth (or a quarter), one-third, a three-and-a-half-foot plank.
  • Use words to express numerals that occur at the beginning of a sentence, title, subtitle, or heading, but consider reordering the title or sentence so it does not start with a numeral.
  • Spell out ordinals first through ninth.
  • Spell out numbers when use of the numeral would place an unintended emphasis on a precise quantity or would be confusing, eg, he was one (not 1) of the best doctors in town.

More information 18.0 Numbers and Percentages

7.    Capitalize Correctly

  • Capitalize major words in titles, subtitles, and headings.
  • Capitalize 2-letter verbs, such as go, do, am, is, be. Note: With infinitives, “to” is not capitalized.
  • Do not capitalize a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet), an article, or a preposition of 3 or fewer letters, except when it is the first word in a title or subtitle or part of a hyphenated term (more information 10.2 Titles and Headings).
  • Titles that appear at the beginning of a journal article are written in title case (Title Case) but not when they are included as part of a reference list, where they are written in sentence case (Sentence case). Note: When cutting and pasting references from PubMed, you may need to change the case from title case to sentence case before inserting in a reference list.
  • In titles, subtitles, and text headings, capitalize both parts of a hyphenated compound (eg, Full-Time Coverage by Attending Physicians in a Pediatric Emergency Department).

More information 10.0 Capitalization

  • Figure titles and table titles should be capitalized like titles and subtitles.
    • Figure 1. Venn Diagram Showing Commonality of Red vs White Attributes.
    • Table 2. Baseline Demographic and Disease Characteristics).
    • Table titles go above the tables. Figure titles go below the figures.

More information 4.0 Tables, Figures, and Multimedia

8.    Format References

Journal article more than 6 authors (use “et al” after the first 3 names)

Johnston SC, Amarenco P, Denison H, et al. Ticagrelor and aspirin or aspirin alone in acute ischemic stroke or TIA. N Engl J Med. 2020;383(3):207-217. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1916870

Journal article 6 or fewer authors (list all names)

Barker RM, Holly JMP, Biernacka KM, Allen-Birt SJ, Perks CM. Mini review: opposing pathologies in cancer and Alzheimer’s disease: does the PI3K/Akt pathway provide clues? Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020;11:403. doi:10.3389/fendo.2020.00403
Note: there is no period after a doi or URL.

Book

Christiansen S, Iverson C, Flanagin A, et al. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. 11th ed. Oxford University Press; 2020.

Etzel RA, Balk SJ, eds. Pediatric Environmental Health. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011.

Note: the publisher’s location is no longer included.

Book chapter

Friedman S, Blumberg RS. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson JL, Loscalzo J, eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. McGraw-Hill Professional; 2012:2477-2495.

Clinicaltrials.gov

A study to evaluate efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of mRNA-1273 vaccine in adults aged 18 years and older to prevent COVID-19. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT04470427. Updated July 14, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2023. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04470427

Meeting poster or abstract

Bashir M, Sherman K, Tedeschi SK, Rosenthal A. Cardiovascular disease risk in calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease. Abstract presented at: Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology; November 12, 2019; Chicago, IL. Late-Breaking Abstract Session L04.

NCCN guidelines

NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®): Breast cancer, version 4.2023. Published March 23, 2023. Accessed July 5, 2023. https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf

See Permission to Cite or Use NCCN Content FAQs

Reference with a group name

Guggenheim JA, Williams C; UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium. Role of educational exposure in the association between myopia and birth order. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015;133(12):1408-1414. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.3556

Note: Use a semicolon before the group name. If only the group name appears, use only that.

Reference with an organization name

Hogan P, Dall T, Nikolov P; American Diabetes Association. Economic costs of diabetes in the US in 2002. Diabetes Care. 2003;26(3):917-932.

Online ahead of print or epub ahead of print

Beumer JH, Foldi J. Pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of elacestrant. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. doi:10.1007/s00280-023-04550-7

Note: Leave out the phrase “published online ahead of print” provided in the PubMed cite AMA format function.

Podcast

OncLive® staff. OncLive® On Air. Talking tumors: turning to liquid biopsies and immunotherapy in lung cancer. Published February 26, 2020. Accessed July 3, 2023. https://www.onclive.com/view/talking-tumors-turning-to-liquid-biopsies-and-immunotherapy-in-lung-cancer

Preprint

Zheng Y, Larragoite ET, Lama J, et al. Neutralization assay with SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 spike pseudotyped murine leukemia virions. bioRxiv. Preprint posted online July 18, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.17.207563

Package insert (prescribing information)

Rystiggo. Prescribing information. UCB; 2023. Accessed January 3, 2024. https://www.ucb-usa.com/RYSTIGGO-prescribing-information.pdf

Note: The “2023” above is the year that the prescribing information was revised; this information is located on the right-hand side on the first page of the prescribing information, usually about halfway down.

Website

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Immunization Schedules. Accessed July 5, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html 

Abbreviated references for slides

Journal supplement

Johnson EM, Wortman MJ, Lundberg PS, Daniel DC. Orderly steps in progression of jc virus to virulence in the brain. Brain Disord Ther. 2015;4(suppl 2):2003. doi:10.4172/2168-975X.S2-003

Newspaper article–print or online (include link and accessed date if online)

Teicholz N. The Government’s Bad Diet Advice. New York Times. February 20, 2015:A19. Accessed July 3, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/opinion/when-the-government-tells-you-what-to-eat.html

Government or organization report online

2023 emerging technologies and scientific innovations: a global public health perspective. Accessed July 5, 2023. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240073876

Legislative reference
US Federal Bills and Resolutions: AMA 3.16.3,1. 21st Century Cures Act, HR 6, 114th Cong (2015). Accessed April 12, 2016. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6

Some notes about references

  • Page numbers are inclusive and separated with a hyphen, eg, 2046-2048 not 2046-8.
  • If an erratum is included in a PubMed reference, it can be left out of the reference list since the correction is linked online.
  • Titles that appear at the beginning of a journal article are written in title case but not when they are included as part of a reference list, where they are written in sentence case.
  • Use the journal name as it appears in PubMed.
  • If the doi is available, remove the URL and date accessed. The doi is considered a permanent online address. There should be no period in the reference list after a URL or a doi if either of these is the final item in the reference.
  • Once published in a journal, unpublished materials such as abstracts and posters should be listed as journal references.
  • Newspaper names are not abbreviated.
  • For book references, the 11th edition no longer requires a publisher’s location to be included.

More information 3.0 References

Other Points

  • For bacteria and virus names, an initial capital letter should be used for the genus but not the species name, and the term should be italicized, eg, aureus 14.14 Organisms and Pathogens
  • 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. The JAMA Network journals do not add “United States” after the name of a US city and state. However, journals differ in this regard. In an address, the two-letter state abbreviation is used 13.5 Cities, States, Counties, Territories, Possessions, Provinces, Countries
  • Bulleted lists should be consistent. Either rewrite all list elements to include complete sentences and include a period at the end or change all elements to phrases and leave off the periods. Parallel construction is also important in lists 7.9 Parallel Construction


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