Guidelines on style for scientific writing

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  • Use italics for emphasis and bold for strong emphasis. Avoid italic bold, which does not always show up as bold in some browsers. [APA does not use bold.]

  • Use italics in expressions such as the term whatever, and for listing descriptors of a scale. For example, items on the 5-point scale ranged from not at all to always.

  • Put the title of a paper, book, or journal in italics in the body of the text. In the reference list, titles of papers are in normal case. [APA uses quote marks for titles of papers in the text.]

  • Put headings in BOLD UPPER CASE.

  • Put subheadings in Bold Title Case. [APA: italic.]

  • Put sub-subheadings in Plain Title Case.

  • Do not use italics for foreign words and abbreviations common in scientific English, such as ad lib, per se, et al., via, ad hoc, post hoc, a priori, a posteriori.


  • Keep the fonts shown in the template of the article you are writing: Times New Roman for the body of the text, and Arial (PCs) or Helvetica (older Macs) for the headings and subheadings.

  • You may use Insert/Symbol from the menu bar of Microsoft programs. Choose the normal text font to get these symbols: ± ° · µ. Choose the Symbol font to get ± ° × D a b g d l m £ ³ ¹ » Ö å and so on.

  • Make a non-breaking space in Word documents with option-spacebar on a Mac, and with control-shift-spacebar in Word on a PC. You can also use the Special Characters sub-window of the Insert/Symbol window to get a non-breaking space.

  • Macintosh users can also produce the following limited set of symbols by use of shift, option and command keys: ° ± … · and the usual accent marks and international letters of the alphabet. Do not attempt to produce any other symbols using shift, command or option keys, because the symbols do not transfer to Web documents via Word. Use Insert/Symbol for other symbols.


  • An abbreviation or acronym (short name) is justified only if the full expression is excessively long or if the abbreviation is well known to all researchers in the discipline. Even so, an easily understood short form of the expression that avoids abbreviations or acronyms is preferable.

  • If you must use an abbreviation, define it in parentheses the first time you use it: for example, body mass index (BMI), maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), the fatigue dimension of the Profile of Mood States (POMS-fatigue).

  • Use the following well-known Latin abbreviations only within parentheses: that is (i.e.), for example (e.g.), and so on (etc.). Do not use the abbreviations for namely (viz.) or compare (cf.), which few people understand. [APA allows these two abbreviations.]

  • Use vs (versus) and et al. (and others) inside or outside parentheses without defining them.

  • Use Note: instead of N.B. (note well).

  • Use abbreviations without explanation for the following terms in the Summary, but define them in the Methods: standard deviation (SD), 95% confidence interval (95%CI), 95% confidence limits (95%CL).

  • Note the lack of periods in acronyms and the lack of apostrophes in their plurals: ACSM, APA, IQ, IQs.

  • Use no periods or spaces in abbreviations of countries: US, UK, NZ. [APA has periods and spaces.]

  • Use a period only if the last letter of the abbreviation is not the last letter of the word, as in these examples: Prof., Dr, Mr, Ms, Vol. 1, p. 3, p. 23-25, 2nd ed., et al., vs, etc., and so on. [Minor departures from APA style here.]

  • Use the following Systeme Internationale (SI) abbreviations for units of measurement (Young, 1987) [APA uses some of these abbreviations.]

    meter m

    millisecond ms

    gram g

    second s

    kilogram kg

    minute min

    mole mol

    hour h

    liter L (not l)

    day d

    milliliter ml

    week wk

    degree °C

    year y

  • Never add an "s" to the above abbreviations.

  • Use the style for scientists and ml/min/kg for non-scientists.

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