5 Tips for Formatting Your Manuscript

Here are 5 things to consider while formatting your manuscrip.


The use of abbreviations should make reading the article easier, not more difficult.  Therefore, avoid using too many abbreviations because it will require that the reader refer to an earlier page for clarification.  In general, abbreviations should be used at least 3 times or not at all.  Abbreviations should be spelled out on first use in both the abstract and main text, and then used consistently thereafter. Check the Instructions to Authors to see if abbreviations used in the text must again be defined in the figure legends.  The more general the journal’s readership, the fewer the abbreviations.

Word Count Limitations: 

Most journals have character limitations for titles and running titles, and abstracts.  Many others have word limitations for each section of the manuscript or for the entire manuscript.  Make sure you are clear as to whether these manuscript word limitations include such sections as Abstracts, Figure Legends, References, or Acknowledgments. For some journals, word count limitations are an absolute: exceed the limitation at your own risk.  For other journals, however, word count limitations are only given as a guideline.  We always suggest that you err on the side of caution and write concisely to stay within the limits. Sometimes, especially with abstracts, it is extremely difficult to stay within the guidelines.  In this case, check the actual practice of the journal by reviewing several recently published articles of the same type as that you are writing (Review, Original Article, Brief Report, Letter, etc) or consider contacting the editorial office for guidance.


For manuscripts written in English, check the Instructions to Authors to determine if British English or American English should be used.  Always ensure that your spelling and word use are consistent with one or the other.  See our Quick Links section above for links to British and US English dictionaries.


Formatting references can be extremely time consuming.  Whether or not you are using bibliography software, we suggest double-checking that all of the references listed in the bibliography are cited in the manuscript and that all of the citations are listed in the bibliography.  When the bibliography is not ordered alphabetically, it is particularly important to ensure that references are not duplicated.  One easy way to do so is to use the ‘Sort’ function of your word processor to sort a COPY (first remove any leading numbers) of the bibliography alphabetically, which makes it much easier to locate duplicate listings.


When subheadings are allowed, utilize them to improve the readability of the manuscript.  It is common to use subheadings in the Methods section.  Judicious use of subheadings in the Results and Discussion will help readers quickly find the information they are seeking.

A well-written article includes all of the necessary information, without unnecessary words or sentences that detract from your story.  Clear formatting will guide the reader through your manuscript, and helps to emphasize the novel and important findings.  Clear, concise writing facilitates the review of your manuscript by showcasing your novel findings, and will lead to a better chance of acceptance for publication.


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