CITE IT RIGHT: Citing Email and Email List-serve Messages and Personal Communications

This is the eleventh and final installment in a series of blog posts about AMA style, which is designed to impart the basic rules for AMA citation style for different types of sources. This week our focus is the different AMA styles for email and email Listserve messages and personal communications. To learn more about AMA style and this blog series, please see the first post.

Citing Email and Email List-serve Messages

Email in running text:


In running text after the sentence quoted (name of author of email, their highest degree, e-mail communication, date).


There have been no subsequent reports of toxic reactions in the exposed groups (Mary Jones, MD, e-mail communication, March 29, 2004).

Email List-serve message in running text:


Sentence from running text (name of author of email, their highest degree, name of list-serve, date).


The AIDS Committee of AIDSinfo is releasing new information on AIDS treatments (Dr. Smith, MD, AIDSinfo At-a-Glance, November 4, 2011).

Email list-serve thread cited in running text:


Title. (Name of list-serve) listserve discussion. Date. URL. Accessed date.


How to prepare for earthquakes. DISASTR-OUTREACH-LIB listserve discussion. November 1-3, 2011. Accessed November 4, 2011.

Please see AMA Manual of Style 3.15.9 for further details and examples.

Citing Personal Communications

Personal communications should not be included in the list of references. 

Instead, cite within text always giving the date; whether the communication was oral or in writing; and the person’s highest degree or source of authority, as follows:


In a conversation with Name, MD* (date)…

According to a letter from Name, MD* in date…


In a conversation with Dr. Jones, MD (November 3, 2011)…

According to the pharmacist (L.M. James, oral communication, October 30, 2011), the drug will be available by prescription next year.

 *Some journals like JAMA require written permission from the person quoted when using their unpublished communications.

See AMA Manual of Style 3.13.9 for further details and examples.

<submitted by Catherine Madsen>

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