Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Corrigenda continued: Stedman's Plus Spellchecker

I've been testing the Stedman's Plus Medical/Pharmaceutical Spellchecker Premium Edition program for months now.

Question: Should I make public my growing list of spelling errors programmed into the Premium Edition?

Talk about frustrating...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10th edition corrigenda

Oxford gives the erratum (in PDF) for the 10th edition manual here [link]; it was last updated in November 2008.

Of course, it could use another update. Or two. Compare the hyphenated ranges in the example figure on page 107 with those given in the figure on 115. Ah-ha! Does a range hyphen take space on both sides or not?

Despite being incomplete, the erratum's still a solid hour of fun for the happy few nerdy enough to track down each error on the list, discovering the ones that got away from our own and Oxford's eyes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

en dash defeated

I have to admit... it never gets old seeing 10th edition examples of the proper use of the en dash fail to example any en dashes.

Brave little hyphen: even under 8.3.2, En Dash, you've conspicuously prevailed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast cancer screening, 40-49 years of age

From Dr Lichtenfeld’s blog:

A review of the Hellquist et al study of breast cancer screening by mammography.
Today, we have another report in the journal Cancer… that… suggests that screening women in their 40's significantly reduces the risk of death from breast cancer.
In brief, the researchers looked at deaths from breast cancer in the entire country of Sweden with follow-up that averaged about 16 years.
[R]esearchers concluded that women in the 40-49 years old age group who were invited to screening decreased their rates of death from breast cancer by 26%. When they looked only at women who actually got screened, that rate increased to 29%. Both of these are very substantial numbers, and in their opinion showed a significant benefit for screening mammograms in women 40-49.
The authors also did an analysis of how many women needed to be invited to screening to save one life from breast cancer. That number was one of the reasons the USPSTF [United States Preventive Services Task Force] elected not to recommend routine screening mammograms in women ages 40-49. In the current study, 1252 women would have to be invited to screening over 10 years to save one life. The statistical analysis also suggested that number may be as low as 958 or as high as 1915. To some, that number may be sufficient to justify screening, to others it is too many women would have to be screened. In other words, it becomes a value judgment whether enough lives are saved from breast cancer in the 40-49 YO age group to justify screening.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"compared with" vs "compared to"

Because the outcome difference between treatment arms is what's being discussed, I've used "compared with," but the client keeps changing it back to "compare to." What authority should I use to demonstrate that "with" really is preferred?
See page 390 in in the 10th edition AMA manual (or 249 in the 9th):
One thing or person is usually compared with another when the aim is to examine similarities or differences in detail. An entity is compared to another when a single striking similarity (or dissimilarity) is observed, or when a thing of one class is likened to one of another class, without analysis (ie, one entity is comparable to another).
Thus AMA confirms what we already know; the more important question is whether AMA is considered authoritative. Does it carry weight?

Some years ago I was confronted by a relatively new but senior member of a company's client service team—a physician with considerable clinical experience and pile of publications:

"Look," he said a little too brusquely, "why do you keep doing this to P values? Nobody knows what this is—I don't think I've ever seen them formatted this way."

I answered that the account used AMA style, then tried to give AMA's rationale for probability value formatting but never got a chance to finish.

"AMA?" he interrupted. "That's JAMA, right?"

I nodded.

"I haven't published anything in JAMA in a decade, at least. JAMA? Who publishes in JAMA anymore?"

If AMA's take on compared with fails to inspire sufficient confidence, you can also cite the ACS Style Guide (page 48) or the 15th edition of Chicago (page 206 and, yes, I know I need to upgrade) or the AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (page 54).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Citation format: supplemental appendix

How do I reference the supplemental appendix given only as a link in the body of the online version of the article I'm working with? Can I just reference the article?
That's a very good question from a Med Ed writer. For clarity, let's back up and make sure we're all on the same page.

The article in question (which I'll keep private) is a standard original article published in a major peer-reviewed journal. The online version of the article is the version actually seen and used by the Med Ed writer. For the purposes of illustration, I've created an imaginary original article citation (mirroring the real article I was asked about) formatted in proper AMA (see 3.15.1 in 10th edition manual):
Smith JJ, Garcia R, Crossman W, et al. Safety and efficacy of XYZ123, inhibitor of JAK in human cancer cells. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(27):115-123. Published September 16, 2010. Accessed September 20, 2010.
It's a fake citation, but let's pretend that this Smith citation refers to the real article I'm being asked about. I've applied proper AMA format for an online article with a publication date and page numbers corresponding to those used in the print version. Pretty standard.

The challenge here is that the Med Ed writer intends to use data not present in the Smith article itself but given in a "Supplemental Appendix" only available by hyperlink in the online version. Readers click the words "Supplemental Appendix" and a PDF automatically loads in the browser, providing data, graphs, charts, and explanation not available in the print version. I checked the print version and confirmed that an editor's note does refer readers to the same "Supplemental Appendix" available online.

That should bring us all up to speed. Finally, the question: What's the proper AMA citation for data taken from that "Supplemental Appendix" PDF?

My initial reaction was to recommend 3.11.8 Supplements, on page 49 of the 10th edition manual, which would format our Smith as follows:
Smith JJ, Garcia R, Crossman W, et al. Safety and efficacy of XYZ123, inhibitor of JAK in human cancer cells. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(27)(suppl):115-123. Published September 16, 2010. Accessed September 20, 2010.
But that's incorrect. The "Supplemental Appendix" PDF hyperlinked in our Smith article is not, after all, a supplement issue of the journal. Instead, it's supplemental matter available with the online version of the standard publication.

The correct format is given in example 12, 3.15.1 Online Journals, on page 66. The paragraph above example 12 explains that
in the example below, the online article includes a video. This is mentioned in an editor's note in the print journal; in the online journal, a link to the video appears in the table of contents and as a link within the article.
The video in that example is supplemental matter available with the online version of the standard publication—just like the PDF available with the online version of our Smith article.

Thus, the answer is to use the format modeled in example 12 of section 3.15.1, reproduced below. Note the bracketed insert, the new URL (corresponding to the URL of the PDF), and the (optional) removal of the published date:
Smith JJ, Garcia R, Crossman W, et al. Safety and efficacy of XYZ123, inhibitor of JAK in human cancer cells [supplemental appendix]. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(27):115-123. Accessed September 20, 2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Citation format: online article not in print

Is there an official way to cite articles not yet available in print but already available online?
Yes, and AMA style gives both a URL and DOI citation format, as in the following example:

Lo SS, Mumby PB, Norton J, et al. Prospective multicenter study of the impact of the 21-gene Recurrence Score assay on medical oncologist and patient adjuvant breast cancer treatment selection. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28. Accessed February 3, 2010.

Lo SS, Mumby PB, Norton J, et al. Prospective multicenter study of the impact of the 21-gene Recurrence Score assay on medical oncologist and patient adjuvant breast cancer treatment selection. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28. doi:10.1200/JCO.2008.20.2119.

Which format is best?
Generally, this editor prefers the DOI format because it's permanent, unlike Web pages that can move, with links that might—for whatever reason—break. The AMA manual agrees:
When the DOI is provided [ie, when the DOI system is being used by the publishing company] it is preferable to cite it rather than the URL.
You can read more about the DOI system at the International DOI Foundation Web site [link]. Also, see section 3.15.1 in the AMA manual, pages 64-67, for the complete discussion.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You should use Research Solutions too

Copy editors sometimes help content developers find and retrieve information, and this editor's no exception. Someone recommended I try Research Solutions, and I did. I'm not a little bit happy with that decision.

In fact, Research Solutions is now my go-to vendor for document delivery.

You should try them too.

Here's the order feedback I sent to their Client Relations representative:


RE: Welcome to Research Solutions!

To: Client Relations - Research Solutions
From: Stephen Wilkins

Thank you for your note*[name withheld]...

I wanted to tell you that the book chapter I ordered this afternoon just arrived a few minutes ago—remarkable speed, idiot simplicity, and reasonable cost make this transaction the best I've experienced in almost 10 years of editorial work.

By comparison, I ordered the same material from Infotrieve only yesterday—still haven't heard from them, rang their offices and got stuck on hold, was eventually forced to leave a message, still unreturned. The editorial equivalent of root canal surgery, behold: Infotrieve.

From now on, I'll order eveything from you folks...