What Is the AMA Medical Style Guide?


The AMA medical style guide is the editorial manual for the American Medical Association, and it first appeared in October 1962 as a guide for in-house staff and, as a secondary responsibility, for authors. It is now in its 10th edition and with each new edition, has expanded in size and is now a massive 1032 pages in total – not one to carry in that rucksack! Almost every major medical journal uses this as its style guide, which amounts to a substantial amount of users. It is published in conjunction with JAMA – the Journal of the American Medical Association, and is updated regularly with the help of the JAMA editors. Looking on the JAMA website will also give you hints and tips on how the write and submit medical articles.

The style manual is straightforward and gives advice on all aspects of writing and editing papers for medical use. See AMA MEDICAL STYLE GUIDE, as this will give you all the information you need to know about the style. The following gives the basics of the reference list format:

Book with a single author:

Shepard TH. Catalog of Teratogenic Agents. 7th ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press; 1992.

Book with multiple authors (if there are 6 or less, list all; if more than 6, then list 3 followed by et al.:
Baselt RC, Cravey RH. Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man. 4th ed. Foster City, CA: Chemical Toxicology Institute; 1995.

You can see that the title of the book is italicized (as with APA) but the year of publication is at the end.
Journal article:

Raux H, Coulon P, Lafay F, Flamand A. Monoclonal antibodies which recognize the acidic configuration of the rabies glycoprotein at the surface of the virion can be neutralizing. Virology. 1995;210(2):400-408.

As you can see the journal title is italicized (same as APA) but the year, volume and page numbers all run together with no spaces.

An online website is:

King MW. The Medical Biochemistry Page. The medical Bio Chemistry Page. Updated July 14, 2009. Accessed July 14, 2009.

In text citations are usually numbered, for example, Brown and Smith13, with the reference list in numerical order. This is very important – references are not listed alphabetically like APA or Chicago. The references are also cited in order, that is, 1, 2, and so on. This can cause some problems because when a reference is deleted or moved, all references need to be renumbered. This is where using an electronically devised reference list could be useful since this will automatically update all the references if they are changed. The references are usually at the end of the sentence unless, like the example above, the authors’ names are mentioned.

Who would use this type of guide? – anyone who wants to publish in a medical type journal: doctors, nurse, scientists, medical researchers… the list is endless, and I mean endless!

As well as the official websites of both the AMA style guide and the JAMA, various other websites will give you very useful guides in how to use the AMA style. Just Google, ‘how to use AMA’ and various renowned sites will appear. These will give advice and tips on the reference list, in-text citations, page layouts, and so on, as not many will be able to carry a book that has over 1000 pages!

This style is not requested as much at FirstEditing as some of the other ones (APA, Chicago, Harvard) but we get requests for it. And as usual, our thesis and dissertation editors are familiar with it and will apply it when requested.

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