Scientific Style and Format - 8th Edition

The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers


About This Edition

Previous editions1–7 of the Council of Science Editors (CSE) style manual have contained major expansions, reorganizations, and updates. In 1994, the sixth edition6 aimed to expand the scope of the manual to include recommendations on scientific style for publications about not only plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and medical sciences, but also other experimental and observational sciences. CSE officially changed the name of the organization in 2000 from the Council of Biology Editors to the Council of Science Editors, and the seventh edition,7 published in 2006, more clearly defined and implemented the intended expansion from a society dedicated to editors of publications in the field of biology to a more wide-ranging and inclusive group of disciplines consisting of all physical and life sciences. Now, with the eighth edition, the changes to overall makeup and structure are not as drastic as in the previous several editions, but content updates include some important revisions to language, particularly relating to the perpetually evolving electronic and online environments in scientific writing and publishing; updated references throughout; and a shift in the previously recommended citation–name reference style to citation–sequence (see Chapter 29). We are also thrilled that for the first time in the history of Scientific Style and Format and its previous iterations, the CSE flagship style manual is now available in a fully searchable online version, as well as an optimized version for mobile platforms. This much-anticipated online version is available for subscription at

The search for a project manager for the eighth edition began in 2010. Once the project manager was appointed, the SSF8 Subcommittee was formed in early 2011 under the auspices of the Publications Committee. CSE members were recruited to review the seventh edition material, make suggestions for updates and changes, and write drafts that were then peer-reviewed by experts in the specific field for each chapter. An Advisory Group consisting of the project manager, a CSE Board member, and two others was also formed to further assist the subcommittee and provide guidance throughout the life of the project.

The Scientific Style and Format Eighth Edition Subcommittee worked to ensure the continued integrity of the CSE style and to provide a progressively up-to-date resource for our valued users, which will be adjusted as needed on the website. We hope that this new edition will prove to be an authoritative tool used to help keep the language and writings of the scientific community alive and thriving, whether the research is printed on paper or published online.

Scientific Scope

Because the traditional boundaries between scientific disciplines are dissolving, Part 3 of this manual, which covers special scientific conventions, is organized not by the various sciences but rather by their subjects, as was the case in the seventh edition. Genetics and biochemistry, for example, were for many years quite separate in the subjects they covered. Now, the molecular structure of genes and how they chemically produce their effects are integrated with the more traditional subjects of genetic inquiry. A report on an inherited characteristic of a particular organism might thus make use of recommendations in the chapters on genetic nomenclature (Chapter 21), chemical formulas and names (Chapter 17), organism structure and function (Chapter 23), and even taxonomy (Chapter 22). This manual’s content on special scientific conventions is generally organized according to a rising scale of dimensions, starting with the fundamental units of matter and proceeding up through chemical and cellular components, microorganisms and more complex organisms, to the planet Earth and the rest of the universe.

This manual’s recommendations on scientific style focus primarily on nomenclature and symbolization. The principles governing these topics are presented in sufficient detail to make clear the basis and rationale for appropriate style, but the manual does not include comprehensive lists of scientific terms, symbols, and abbreviations for all disciplines. Authoritative documents are available in many disciplines to guide authors who are responsible for coining new terms and symbols and those who need to use them. References for these documents, many of them now available online, are given at the end of the relevant chapters.


The text is divided into chapters grouped in 4 parts. Part 1 provides an overview of important issues related to scientific publication, including editorial practices and copyright. Part 2 covers conventions widely applied in both general and scientific scholarly publishing. Part 3 covers details of style mainly applicable in the sciences. Part 4 recommends formats applicable in scientific journals, books, and other media, including formats for bibliographic citations and references.

Within each chapter, the section numbering is hierarchical, and section numbers are linked to headings.

In a departure from the seventh edition, references and their citations are presented in the citation–sequence format. This choice was based on certain advantages of that system (see Section 29.2.3), in particular, ease of finding references as the user reads the chapter from beginning to end. Authoritative online resources, where such are available, are provided in chapter reference lists.

Changes from the Previous Edition


The most significant changes in the eighth edition include closing up “email” and “website” and making them lowercase. The subcommittee recognizes that these moves are widely debated and may still be considered controversial by some, but we ultimately decided that dropping the hyphen in “email” and closing the space in “website” are the progressive and responsible ways to go and will keep CSE style on the front end of linguistic evolution. Other noteworthy changes include shifting the reference citation format within each chapter to citation–sequence, as previously mentioned, so that now each chapter’s references section is numbered in the order in which each reference is cited instead of numbered alphabetically (as in the seventh edition); and adding new recommendations and examples to Chapter 29 for citing e-books, online images and infographics, podcasts and webcasts, online videos, blogs, and social networking sites.

We have also updated the language throughout the manual to be in line with a more integrated online and electronic publishing environment: we changed terms such as “World Wide Web” to “Internet” or rephrased to say “available/published online” or similar, and we removed most mentions of antiquated media such as magnetic tapes, floppy disks, typewriters, handwritten manuscripts, videocassettes, and audiocassettes, except where noted in historical contexts.

In an effort to reduce confusion for authors and editors using this manual, we removed most typesetting- and publishing-specific details from each chapter as appropriate and instead provide that information as an online-only publishing appendix that is available at

Significant Chapter-Specific Updates

In Chapter 1, “Elements of a Scientific Publication”, Section 1.2.1, information was added about abstracts, which are now considered an essential part of a scientific publication, and how abstracting and indexing databases have become increasingly important in a publication’s visibility in scientific and academic communities.

Chapter 2, “Publication Policies and Practices”, provides new details about online databases and repositories (Section 2.2) and includes a new section titled “Responsibilities of Publishers, Journal Owners, and Sponsoring Societies” (Section 2.9).

Recent changes to copyright application instructions are outlined in Chapter 3, “The Basics of Copyright”, Section There is also a new section in Chapter 3, “Creative Commons Licenses” (Section 3.3.4), which provides details to help users interested in making their work available to others and the various levels of licensing possible through the Creative Commons licensing office.

Chapter 4, “Alphabets, Symbols, and Signs”, contains updated information about STIX fonts (Section 4.3), including Version 1.1.0, which was released in 2012.

In response to requests from users of the seventh edition, a new section was added to Chapter 7: “Active vs. Passive Voice” (Section 7.9). Though other style manuals may have similar sections on this topic, it is as important in scientific writing as it is in other prose writing to use the correct voice. The authors of this new section provide recommendations on the appropriate place within a scientific manuscript to use each type of voice.

Chapters 12 (“Numbers, Units, Mathematical Expressions, and Statistics”) and 30 (“Accessories to Text: Tables, Figures, and Indexes”) were both significantly revised and reorganized for ease of use and to provide the user with recent updates in their respective areas. Also specified in Chapter 12 (and mentioned in Chapter 5) is a change in recommendation to now use a comma in whole numbers with 4 or more digits. The seventh edition recommended using thin spaces to separate 5 or more digits, which created more keystrokes and led to differences in the way various typesetting systems interpreted the amount of space a thin space should have, so the authors decided to simplify this and avoid discrepancies and limitations by using a comma (Section

The title of Chapter 13 was changed from “Time and Dates” in the seventh edition to “Time, Dates, and Age Measurements”, which better encompasses the contents of the chapter. Clarifications were made to more accurately describe the use of time units and their approved abbreviations (Section 13.2.1) and how best to refer to clock time (Section 13.2.2).

In Chapter 14, “Geographic Designations”, outdated references to the USSR were removed and other country names were updated, as well as URLs for online databases of country and geographic names and postal codes.

Within Chapter 15, “The Electromagnetic Spectrum”, Section 15.2, “Longer Wavelengths”, was simplified for better understanding.

Updates were made to Chapter 18, “Chemical Kinetics and Thermodynamics”, to be in line with the most recent edition of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Green Book, such as the fact that the symbol for “apparent” is now “app” and the abbreviation for “fluid” is now “f” instead of “fl”.

In Chapter 19, “Analytical Chemistry”, Section 19.2.1, “Types of Techniques”, 2 new techniques were added: electron microscopy and lab-on-a-chip.

Chapter 21, “Genes, Chromosomes, and Related Molecules”, contains new information in Section 21.2, “Genetic Units, Measures, and Tools”, to address new technologies and the naming of single-nucleotide polymorphisms. There are also updated sections on cotton nomenclature (Section, soybean genetics (Section, and human genetic nomenclature (Section 21.15.7).

In Chapter 23, “Structure and Function”, Section 23.5.10, “Thermal Physiology”, was reorganized and modified for clarity.

Several significant updates were made in Chapter 26, “Astronomical Objects and Time Systems”. In Section 26.4.2, the title was changed from “Minor Planets (Asteroids) and Comets” to “Dwarf Planets and Small Solar System Bodies (Asteroids and Comets)” and the use of “minor planets” was removed throughout the chapter in accordance with the 2006 definitions from the International Astronomical Union, which famously downgraded Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet.

Chapter 27, “Journal Style and Format”, contains some significant updates to language, including removing references to videocassettes as a modern, viable option for publication (Section 27.2, “Format”), acknowledging the increasingly prevalent use of online-only publications and parts of publications (Section, and updating references to browsers (e.g., removed mention of AltaVista; Section, “Production Issues”).

The title of Chapter 28 was changed from “Books, Technical Reports, Conference Proceedings, and Other Monographs” to “Published Media”, which is inclusive of all forms of publications, which are constantly changing in this age of rapid advancement in technology. The chapter was revised accordingly to allow for this in the coming years until the next edition of this manual is published.

There are also some significant updates in Chapter 29, “References”. In Section, “Audiovisuals”, we have changed our recommendation from including a physical description in a reference listing to not including it. The title of Section was changed from “Homepages and Other Internet Material” to “Websites and Other Online Formats” and, as previously mentioned, recommendations and examples were added for reference citations to e-books, online databases, online images and infographics, podcasts and webcasts, online videos, blogs, and social networking sites. This chapter will likely need to be updated again in the next edition of this manual.

Distinctions were added in Chapter 31, “Typography and Manuscript Preparation”, to clarify the differences between “typeface”, “text attributes”, and “font” (Sections 31.1 and 31.2.1). Language was also updated throughout the chapter to accommodate electronic software systems as opposed to more print-centric tools, and Section 31.3.2, “Traditional and Electronic Mark-Up”, includes additional information about XML, HTML, and electronic devices.

Finally, Chapter 32, “Proof Correction”, was drastically updated to feature the specification in Section 32.4, “Marking Paper Proofs”, indicating mark-up recommendations to hard-copy proofs, and the addition of a new section, “Annotating PDF Proofs” (Section 32.5). The new section does not lay out its own best practices, as many are available, but it does provide helpful information covering the basics of PDF annotation as well as a few new figures depicting tools an author or editor could use, depending on the version of Adobe Acrobat that is available.

Recommendations for Future Editions

Monitoring the scientific literature for documents establishing or recommending new nomenclature, notations, or formats is a huge task. We urge scientific societies, committees, working groups, individual scientists, and others to send to the Council of Science Editors both formal and informal documents with recommendations on nomenclature, symbols, and style, whether they are new or simply not represented in this edition. The committee responsible for the style manual will review suggestions in consultation with subject experts and decide on the recommendations to be represented in future editions.

Send suggestions to the Council of Science Editors:

Cited References

1. Conference of Biological Editors, Committee on Form and Style. Style manual for biological journals. Washington (DC): American Institute of Biological Sciences; 1960.

2. Conference of Biological Editors, Committee on Form and Style. Style manual for biological journals. 2nd ed. Washington (DC): American Institute of Biological Sciences; 1964.

3. Council of Biology Editors, Committee on Form and Style. CBE style manual. 3rd ed. Washington (DC): American Institute of Biological Sciences; 1972.

4. Council of Biology Editors, CBE Style Manual Committee. Council of Biology Editors style manual: a guide for authors, editors, and publishers in the biological sciences. 4th ed. Bethesda (MD): Council of Biology Editors; 1978.

5. Council of Biology Editors, CBE Style Manual Committee. CBE style manual: a guide for authors, editors, and publishers in the biological sciences. 5th ed., revised and expanded. Bethesda (MD): Council of Biology Editors; 1983.

6. Council of Biology Editors, Style Manual Committee. Scientific style and format: the CBE manual for authors, editors, and publishers. 6th ed. New York (NY): Cambridge University Press; 1994.

7. Council of Science Editors, Style Manual Committee. Scientific style and format: the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers. 7th ed. Reston (VA): The Council; 2006.

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