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Style guidelines for journal manuscripts

by Geoff Hart

Previously published as: Hart, G.J. 2003. Style guidelines for submitting journal manuscripts. the Exchange 10(2):6.

Just as no two editors agree on every detail of editorial style and no two writers will take the same approach to describing a concept, so it is that journals tend to have their own idiosyncratic stylistic quirks. Although a superbly written manuscript about exciting, well-designed research will always be published—eventually—and a journal’s copyeditors will help authors to follow house style, following a journal's guidelines greatly reduces the barriers to publication. Some journals even explicitly state that they’ll return manuscripts unread if they don’t meet the journal’s formatting and other submission guidelines. Having encountered this firsthand, it's clear that this is no idle threat.

One tremendous tool offered by the Internet is the ability to find guidelines to authors on a publisher’s Web site. For example, check out the guidelines to authors published by Elsevier (http://authors.elsevier.com/) and the National Research Council of Canada (www.nrc.ca/cgi-bin/cisti/journals/rp/rp2_jour_e) to review the submission guidelines from two major publishers.

Where you can’t find a specific journal’s style guidelines, it’s generally a good idea to follow a good subject-specific style guide. Some of these are also available online, such as the "Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals" (http://www.icmje.org/).

Do you have a favorite online style guide? Share it with us! That provides a neat intro to let me formally introduce you to Alane Alchorn (alchorn1@llnl.gov), who has volunteered to begin getting our SIG’s Web site up and running. If you come across other useful online references, please contact Alane or me to share the information with other members of the SIG.


My essays on scientific communication have now been collected in the following book:

Hart, G. 2011. Exchanges: 10 years of essays on scientific communication. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Que. Printed version, 242 p.; eBook in PDF format, 327 p.


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