Dr Abel Scribe PhD

AMA & ICMJE Medical Styles

Under Review

These pages date from 2009. This is not an over long time as style guides go—the Chicago Manual of Style is on a ten-year publication cycle—but over long to reflect tends in medical writing. The metric system clashes with many traditional measures used in medicine. Is this still the case? Has the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) style evolved? Are the "Core Clinical Journals" of the National Library of Medicine still the same?

It is not a simple cognitive task to wrap your mind around the complex AMA style manual. It is riddled with minutiae. For example, on page 9 we are advised: "The lowercase letter l should not be substitued for the number 1 (one) and the capital letter O should not be substituted for zero, and vice versa." This is good advice, but at this level of detail the trees block the view of the forest. Referring to a complex set of instructions, Robert Pirsig noted in his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, "Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind." It's something like that.

The "Instructions for Authors" in journals come up short. Much is skimmed over or left out, and this site is focused on presenting papers for classes or conferences, not publication. Our best effort to date runs to 25 pages. This is too long, style sheets for APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) styles are just 12 pages. Our goal for this revision is on that order. Doc's PhDs are in anthropology, economics, and sociology (he has three heads!).

AMA Medstyle Stat!

The American Medical Association Manual of Style provides instructions for authors and editors preparing research papers for review and publication in research journals and texts. The essential features of the style are distilled in AMA Medstyle Stat! to craft papers in final format, the format appropriate for papers prepared for classes, conferences, and seminars. The AMA's style and "Vancouver" style, the style of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), are very similar. Developed to reduce the proliferation of styles in medical writing, ICMJE style has been adopted some leading journals, and is accepted by hundreds of others.

AMA Style Resources by Doc Scribe
Trick or Treat! The new AMA Manual makes many small revisions or corrections, some devilishly difficult to find. For example, the old Manual required long quotes of dialogue, of any length, to be run-on in a text. That note is simply gone, at least where in the 660 pages it might have moved to is a mystery.

AMA Style Stat!  AMA Style Stat! webpage is a concise style guide applying the essential features of the AMA Manual of Style (2007) to research papers prepared for for conferences, seminars, and classes.
AMA Style Stat! (PDF)  AMA Style Stat! (PDF 210 KB, 25 pp). The PDF version is the version of record, formatted for printing and reference. It includes the Abridged Index Medicus list of core clinical journals and their abbreviations.
Owl Icon Abridged Index Medicus (AIM). The National Library of Medicine list of 119 "Core Clinical" journals (with abbreviations) is a handy when formatting references (PDF version 45 KB, 4 pp).
PDF Icon List of Journals Indexed for Medline (PDF 1.3 MB, 384 pp) replaced the Index Medicus, but has ceased publication. The list is now an online database. This 2007 edition is a handy desktop reference for journal abbreviations.

What's New?

American practice is slowly embracing the metric system. Efforts to force a conversion were were ignored, so AMA style is now content to require giving conversion factors to SI (metric system) units for conventional clinical measures. For example, "The blood glucose concentration of 126 mg/dL (to convert to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.055) was used as a criterion for diagnosing diabetes" (AMA 2007, "New FAQ" Page). A conversion table from the AMA Manual can be downloaded below and at the JAMA website. This is the most important change to AMA style in the current edition of the Manual. There are slight changes to formats for references to online sources, and the dubious practice of "versioning" these same sources.


Oxford University Press publishes the AMA Manual. They have thoughtfully provided many excerpts from the manual, including the complete table of contents. (These links have not been recently tested.)

AMA Manual of Style, 10th Edition, at the Oxford University Press (Index Page)

An interesting page on the website documents the history of the AMA Manual, including publication figures for the eighth edition (1989, 33,000+) and ninth edition (1998, 44,000+). At $55.00 it is a bit pricey for students looking to format a research paper. The "Instructions for Authors" on the JAMA website help, but they are focused on writing for publication; the instructions for presenting tables and figures apply to copy manuscripts submitted in electronic format. These do not apply to papers presented in their final format for conferences and seminars.  Note, AMA style continues to spell website as two words, Web site.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors
Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) drafted the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals to help reduce the chaos in medical writing. This became known as the "Vancouver style."

PDF Icon ICMJE Uniform Requirements (PDF About 120 KB). The Uniform requirement are also available online at the ICMJE Web site. Reference formats are maintained by the US National Library of Medicine (below).
PDF Icon ICMJE Reference Style Sheet (PDF 40 KB) from the National Library of Medicine (August 2009). Please verify that it is current with that on the official US National Library of Medicine Web site.
The Uniform Requirements are intended to aid authors preparing manuscripts for review and publication. The format is not well documented--not going beyond the "Instructions for Authors" found in most journals--but comes with an extensive set of sample references. Many journals have adopted ICMJE style for their publication (list of journals).


The Science of Scientific Writing by George Gopen and Judith Swan. This article was first published in the pages of the American Scientist in 1990. It was originally developed in a faculty writing workshop at the Duke Medical School. It has worn well the test of time. For many years it was embargoed on the American Scientist website. The embargo has lapsed and Doc has made it available in PDF format: The Science of Scientific Writing (90 KB).


Citing Medicine. The National Library of Medicine has published a style guide, available free at their website. It is available only chapter by chapter in (uncompressed) pdf format, about a megabyte (MB) per chapter. The text is huge (1000 pages?) in excruciating detail, with 26 chapters and 5 appendixes.

Patrias, Karen. Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors, and publishers [Internet]. 2nd ed. Wendling, Daniel L., technical editor. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2007 [insert Year Month Day]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/citingmedicine

If the URL above does not work try http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bookres.fcgi/citmed/frontpage.html