Chemistry & Biochemistry – Brief Style Guide
Page 1 of 5
A Brief Style Guide for Chemists
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Brigham Young University
Each journal and agency has its own style and rules. Look up and follow exactly the rules of the
particular journal or agency to which you are submitting your paper, proposal, or report.
Always keep your reader in mind. Almost every rule listed here is for the purpose improving
clarity and readability. The more you can aid your reader to quickly and accurately understand
your work, the better.
Use a concise, but informative and descriptive title. Avoid unusual or nonstandard
abbreviations and acronyms. Don’t try to be clever. (In rare cases, appropriate humor can be
incorporated into a subtitle; a favorite example from the Journal of Physical Chemistry:
“Triboluminescene in Sucrose Crystals, or why do Wintergreen Lifesavers spark in the
Use headings to organize and divide documents. In typography, a first-level heading is called
an A head; a second-level heading, a B head; and so forth. Don’t indent A heads and B
heads. Distinguish between A and B heads in the text by changing the font attributes. Be sure
your headings stand out from the text.
Present information in a logical order, organized to flow clearly from sentence to sentence,
paragraph to paragraph, and section to section.
Link back to earlier information as necessary with strong phrases, like “Because fluorescence
does not interfere with CARS signals, …” or “The lack of interference by fluorescence …”.
Don’t use weak, interest-draining phrases, like “As previously mentioned, …” or worse “the
afore said …”.
Organize paragraphs with a clear topic sentence, followed by supportive information. Each
paragraph should have only one idea.
Organize sentences with the topic (old) information at the beginning and the emphasis (new)
information at the end.
Don’t give explanations to the editor (or instructor) within a manuscript. If you want to write
a note to the editor, use a separate letter or memo.
Format and Appearance
Double space the lines in a manuscript, including the references.
Use a serif font for text; you may use a san serif font for titles and heads. For scientific
papers be conservative with font faces, font sizes, and font attributes.
Don’t bold, italicize, or
change font size unless absolutely necessary. Never bold
underline the same words.
Don’t allow widows and orphans to occur in your manuscript, especially orphan headings. A
widow is the last line of a paragraph appearing alone at the top of a page; an orphan is the
first line of a paragraph appearing alone at the bottom of a page.
Orphan headings can be
automatically avoided in Word by using the Heading Styles function.