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The accuracy of quotations and references in six medical journals published during January 1984 was assessed. The original author was misquoted in 15% of all references, and most of the errors would have misled readers. Errors in citation of references occurred in 24%, of which 8% were major errors--that is, they prevented immediate identification of the source of the reference. Inaccurate quotations and citations are displeasing for the original author, misleading for the reader, and mean that untruths become "accepted fact." Some suggestions for reducing these high levels of inaccuracy are that papers scheduled for publication with errors of citation should be returned to the author and checked completely and a permanent column specifically for misquotations could be inserted into the journal.