Guidelines on style for scientific writing

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  • Insert a comma wherever there would be a slight pause between words or phrases in the spoken sentence.

  • Insert a semicolon between two parts of a sentence; the proviso is that both parts must be able to stand alone as separate sentences.

  • Use a colon to introduce an explanation or an example of something: here is an example. If there are several simple explanations or examples, separate them with commas; otherwise, use semicolons.

  • Avoid excessive use of parentheses ( ). Use them to make an aside (an extra remark) only if commas could be confusing. Never use parentheses within parentheses: find another way of saying it.

  • Use brackets [ ] for material inserted into a quotation and ellipsis (three dots) for material omitted: According to Smith (1999), "few such [descriptive] studies were done… before 1950."

  • Use dashes--two hyphens with no spaces anywhere--for emphatic asides.

  • Use one or two spaces after a period, colon, or semicolon. Note, though, that Web browsers delete more than one space unless you make them non-breaking spaces.

  • Use double quotation marks (") for speech and verbatim quotations.

  • If a quotation is long, type it as an indented block of text without quotation marks, as shown in this example:
    According to Smith (1982)...

    The "newbie effect" disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Examples of methods included indirect observation, self-reports, and retrospective questionnaires. (p. 276)

  • Use double quotation marks the first time you introduce a newly coined or slang term; do not use quotation marks thereafter.

  • Don't use "smart quotes" (66 and 99), because they create problems when translated into Web documents.

  • Use single quotation marks (') for quotes within quotes.

  • Use the apostrophe (') to denote possession:
    an athlete's responses, two athletes' responses.
    But note that
    its = of it, whereas it's = it is.

  • Put commas, semicolons, colons, and periods outside closing quotation marks: "this", for example, but not "this," or "this." Exception: "If the quotation ends in a complete sentence, the period is part of the quote and should therefore go inside the quotation marks, like this." [APA: all punctuation goes within the quotation marks.]

  • Use of and/or instead of or is acceptable when you want to emphasize either or both.

  • The forward slash (/) can be used instead of or in sentences that are already replete with ands and/or ors.

  • Use Title Case (initial upper-case letters for words of four or more letters) in:

  • the title and subheadings of your article;

  • titles of journals;

  • titles of books or articles in the text, but not in the reference list;

  • proper nouns, including trade names (Wilks's lambda, Aspro, the Web and a Web site, but not in a website);

  • names of tests (the Stroop Color-Word Test);

  • nouns followed by numbers (on Day 2, in Group B) but not in the control group;

  • names of institutional departments (Department of Sport Science, University of Wherever), but not of disciplines (a department of sport science);

  • references to sections of the article (in the Methods section; see Results; in Figure 1; in Table 2; see Appendix 3; in Chapter 4).

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