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Flashcard Style Guide

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Download a Word document version of the style guide here

Follow the AMA Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style 
For most style points, you can use these sources as a guideline. In cases of conflict between the two, defer to the AMA preference. Please read below for exceptions and clarifications.

Rewrite his/her and sentences with awkward commas
When sentences arise that require a pronoun, such as "his" or the more modern "his or hers," rewrite the entire sentence so that it no longer requires a pronoun. The same procedure applies to sentences, usually long and bulky ones, with awkward commas. Rewrite these or divide them into shorter sentences.

Standard Flashcards
Many of your flashcards will ask questions that are complete sentences beginning with a capital letter and ending with a question mark. Answers to this form of question usually should not be complete sentences, but they should be consistent with good grammar. An appropriate but incomplete sentence is called an elliptical sentence. Examples are dictionary definitions or remarks in a screenplay. Elliptical sentences must begin with a capital letter and end with a period. An elliptical sentence can be a single word, e.g. "Four." The training program covers elliptical sentences.

Fill in the Blank
You can also use fill-in-the-blank flashcards that should end with a period. Example:

Q: DNA is stored in the cell _______. 
A: nucleus

Here no punctuation is required in the answer. Inserting "nucleus" back into the sentence will make it grammatically correct: DNA is stored in the cell nucleus. If the answer is the first word in the question's sentence, it should be capitalized. For consistency, use seven underscores in the blank, regardless of the length of the answer. ALWAYS Use one blank, even though the answer requires several words. Never write a flashcard with more than one blank. The question with the answer filled in should be a complete, grammatically correct sentence.

Fill-ins can use hints. Click here for examples of this type of flashcard.

Here is a shortcut to making blanks: Use only one underscore for each blank. When you have finished making all flashcards for the subtopic, use Microsoft Word's Find and Replace All to quickly change all the single underscores to the same seven space length we require. In the Find What box, enter _ and in the Replace With box enter _______
Note that this will only work if ALL the blanks are only one underscore long. If you are going back and editing a file, doing this with blanks that are already seven underscores long will result in Word replacing EACH underscore with seven underscores. You would then have blanks that are 49 spaces long.

Do NOT write True/false or Yes/No Flashcards
Please read the section on hints for ideas about how to write flashcards without true/false.

Do NOT write any flashcards where the question is in a 50/50 form
A question should not give two options, such as either x or y. This is not much different than true/false. The student should not be allowed to guess by seeing the correct answer somewhere in the question. Thematically, flashcards should always have the fragment of information to be tested for on the answer side of the card. If the fragment appears somewhere in the question the student is not getting adequate study. Please visit this page for a list of examples.

Parenthetical Expressions
Parenthetical expressions, including abbreviations, should immediately follow the text that they reference such as: What is glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (PGAL)?

In general, if you use a number between 0 and 10, spell it out: four. This means spell all ordinals from one to nine (0 and 10 should not be spelled out).
Of course, there are exceptions:
Do not spell out measurements (14 oz, for example).
Do not spell out other noun modifiers (such as 45 years old). In this case, "45" modifies the noun "years," and should remain in digit form.
Do not spell out measurements of time (17 hours, for example).
Do not spell out numbers for any math problems, fractions, or decimals.
Use numbers for ranges, such as 67 through 79.
Use numbers and the symbol for percentages unless at the start of the sentence (39% in a sentence and Thirty-nine percent if starting a sentence).
Spell out any numbers beginning a sentence. If this is a large bulky number, such as 1,290,551, rewrite the sentence so it is not at the front.
Do not use numerals for consecutive numbers. Example: Write "The study consisted of five 40 year old males" NOT "The study consisted of 5 40 year old males."

Please click here to read a page devoted to stylistic rules of italics.

Quotation Marks
Any word part or syllable in derivations, or any word or syllable used as an example goes in quotes; nothing else does. Quotes are not used around the meanings. For usage of quotes around words used as an example, this is largely at the discretion of the author. Generally, if a sentence would be confusing without singling a word or phrase out with quotes, then the quotes are needed.

The Ellipsis
Do not use three periods at the end of a sentence, or an ellipsis (...). Use blanks instead, as described above.

Precede noun answers with "The."
Example: The thalamus, hypothalamus, epithalamus and subthalamus are part of what structure? Diencephalon. This is incorrect. The grammatically correct answer is: The diencephalon.

There is a trick you can use in your head to figure out if you need "the." In your mind, make your answer into a complete sentence: The thalamus, hypothalamus, epithalamus and subthalamus are part of diencephalon.
After putting this into a longer sentence, you can easily see it is incorrect. The correct longer sentence is: The thalamus, hypothalamus, epithalamus and subthalamus are part of the diencephalon.
Since the longer sentence requires "the," you will need it in the shorter elliptical form: The diencephalon.
One more example:
Which system maintains posture and equilibrium and coordinates head and eye movements?
Vestibular system.
To see why this is wrong, put your answer into a longer sentence: Vestibular system maintains posture and equilibrium and coordinates head and eye movements.
After doing so, you can easily see the sentence is grammatically incorrect, and should start with "the":
The vestibular system maintains posture and equilibrium and coordinates head and eye movements.
However, you need to keep it elliptical, so the correct answer is:
The vestibular system.
To summarize: If you don’t know if you need "the," put your sentence into a longer form and see if it makes sense. This trick also works to see if you need "a."

Pay attention to your spellchecker. Words like "latin" and "greek" will be underlined in red because they should be capitalized. Your spellchecker won't automatically find medical terms. To set Word up to recognize medical terms, use Dorland's or Stedman's as the default custom dictionary. Click here for instructions.

You may also download free word lists. Visit our page of instructions and links to the wordlists by clicking here.

Grammar Tutorial

For more, please continue on to our grammar tutorial. This covers the basic rules of grammar.

Editing Examples
You can find useful examples of flashcard errors here from the perspective of our editors. This will give you more insight into what we expect from flashcard authors.


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