Greek Letter vs Word - AMA Manual of Style

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Greek Letter vs Word 

Greek Letters

Brenda Gregoline

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PRINTED FROM AMA MANUAL OF STYLE ONLINE ( © American Medical Association, 2009. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the license agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in AMA Manual of Style Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).  Subscriber: null; date: 28 November 2015

Greek Letter vs Word

The editors of JAMA and the Archives Journals prefer the use of Greek letters rather than spelled-out words, unless usage dictates otherwise. Consult Dorland's and Stedman's medical dictionaries for general terms. These sources may differ in the representation of terms, ie, α-fetoprotein (symbol) (Stedman's) and alpha fetoprotein (Dorland's). If the Greek letter, rather than the word, is found in either of these sources for the item in question, use the letter in preference to the word.

  • For chemical terms, the use of Greek letters is almost always preferred.


  • For electroencephalographic terms, use the word (see 15.11.2, Nomenclature, Neurology, Electroencephalographic Terms).

    lambda waves

  • For drug names that contain Greek letters, consult the sources listed in 15.4, Nomenclature, Drugs, for preferred usage. In some cases, when the Greek letter is part of the word, as in betamethasone, the Greek letter is spelled out and set closed up. For some names, the approved nonproprietary name takes the word and not the letter, as in beta carotene, with an intervening space. (However, the chemical name for beta carotene is β-carotene.)

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