AMA Manual of Style - Stacy L. Christiansen, Cheryl Iverson 2020


Identifying the benchmark, the “gold standard,” in any discipline, is difficult. There are often numerous reference books and well-recognized and validated measures of diseases and disorders, but that single best resource can be elusive. However, the AMA Manual of Style, since its inaugural version in 1962, and with this 11th edition, is truly the standard, and in the words of one colleague, “the bible of medical publishing.” Written by the editorial staff at JAMA and the JAMA Network—including physicians, manuscript editing managers, and current and former managing editors—it is the single most comprehensive text focused solely on medical publishing.

In 2018 I traveled to a meeting held at a start-up that was involved in health and wellness marketing. What did I see—5 copies of the AMA Manual of Style. When I asked why so many copies, the response was, “They are always in use; it has everything related to medical publishing. What more could we need?”

Dangling participles, malapropisms, misuse of hyphens and commas, and capitalization errors: I commit each of these sins daily. Is it two or 2, affect or effect, which or that ? Are book titles set in roman or italic type? How do you capitalize and punctuate email ? When is causal language appropriate to be used in a research report? Do I use an SI unit or a conventional unit? What is the best way to display data? How do I handle an author dispute or determine if permission to republish part of a figure is needed? Was the correct statistical analysis used for a specific study? These puzzling questions come up every day in medical publishing and manuscript editing. The AMA Manual of Style answers these questions and thousands more.

Communication of medical information has changed radically over the past decade. The emergence of the internet and digital publishing changed forever how information is communicated. Reliance on a print copy of a journal is no more. The content of many journals is now “pushed” to many audiences via the internet, social media, news media, and email (or e-mail, which is it? see chapter 8.3). Transmission of information, which used to be confined to the printed word, now includes online synopses of articles, podcasts, videos, visual abstracts, and content translated into other languages. In the chapters on Manuscript Preparation; References; Editorial Assessment and Processing; Editing, Proofreading, Tagging, and Display; and the Glossary of Publishing Terms many of these new forms of communication are discussed.

The book is comprehensive. Since the publication of the last edition, old issues, including conflict of interest and scientific misconduct, have reemerged with additional and important concerns. New and evolving issues, such as open access, preprint servers, team science, open peer review, data sharing, and new rules for protecting participants’ rights in research have come to the fore. These and related issues are discussed in depth in the chapter Ethical and Legal Considerations and are also addressed in the chapters on Manuscript Preparation and Editorial Assessment and Processing.

For an author, editor, or publisher working in the field of medical publishing, the 23 chapters in this volume should help answer questions that arise in daily work as well as those that occur infrequently. There is guidance on citing sources; data displays (graphical and tabular); grammar, punctuation, plurals, and capitalization; correct and preferred usage; abbreviations; nomenclature (from genetics to organisms to oncology); copyright, licensing, and permissions; units of measure; numbers, study design, and statistics; equations; and electronic editing and proofreading. The book concludes with a list of other resources that may be helpful to authors and editors.

During my tenure I have had the good fortune of working with some great writers—Don Berwick, Tony Fauci, Phil Fontanarosa, Larry Gostin, Mary McDermott, Abraham Verghese, and Jody Zylke. For them I suspect writing comes naturally; they are simply gifted communicators. But for most people, writing—particularly medical writing—is a learned skill. There are many nuances, including high-level organizational structure, reporting standards, and correct usage of medical terminology, as well as paragraph transitions, syntax, word choice, verb tense, and punctuation use. For the vast majority of authors and editors of scientific communication, this edition of the AMA Manual of Style will be of great assistance.

It has been my privilege to work with the authors of this book. They have taught me much about medical editing and publishing. In the field of medical journalism and communication, the AMA Manual of Style is indispensable. It should be on the shelf of every editor and publisher and available to authors worldwide.

Howard Bauchner, MD

Editor in Chief

JAMA and the JAMA Network