Barrick Lab Style Guide

Writing a Scientific Paper

General Formatting

  • Use a single space after a period between sentences.
  • Use 1/4" indentions instead of 1/2" indentions to start new paragraphs.


  • Use Mendeley to organize your citations and insert them into word processing documents.
  • If you aren't formatting for submission to a specific journal, use the Nature Reviews Genetics style.
  • To add italics to species names in downloaded citation titles, add HTML italics tags around them.
    • e.g. Escherichia coli to <i>Escherichia coli</i>
  • If Mendeley fails to automatically detect citation information when you import a PDF or use the Google scholar search by title option, the best way to correct this information without typing it in is to search for the article in PubMed, copy the PubMed ID (PMID) number into the "Catalog IDs" section in Mendeley, and hit the magnifying glass icon.
  • To enable using journal abbreviations follow these directions:
    1. Open the Mendeley Desktop user data folder by pressing Cmd+Shift+D (Mac) and clicking 'Open Data Directory'.
    2. Create a folder inside the Data Directory called "journalAbbreviations".
    3. Within this folder, create a plain text file called "default.txt". Each line in this file is a full journal title followed by a tab and then the abbreviation to substitute for this journal title. Matching of the journal title is case-sensitive.
      • You can download a version of this file that should contain most common abbreviations here.
    4. If an entry does not exist in this file, you can find the standard abbreviation using CAS or other resources.
  • Correct article titles so that only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
    • Also capitalize words after colons in the title.

Figures and Graphs

  • Create figures in a vector graphics program (e.g., Adobe Illustrator).
  • Always include a legend for symbols within a figure, NOT just in the figure caption.
  • Unlike the defaults in Microsoft Excel:
    • Enclose the data frame of a graph in a full box.
    • Generally, do not include any grid lines on graphs.
    • Do not use shadow effects.
  • Use 95% confidence intervals, rather than standard deviations for error bars.
  • Neaten up graphs created in Excel or other formats for publication by saving them as PDFs, importing into Adobe Illustrator, and using this to adjust line widths, labels, aspect ratios, add additional details, etc. (Be careful to not change the locations of data points or error bars relative to axis ticks during this process, obviously).


Use Unicode symbols instead of symbol font. They work much better cross-platform. You can generally copy-paste from this table.

Name Symbol Do not use...
prime ' (single quote)
times × x (letter x)

Here are some websites that contain many more unicode symbols:
Main: Unicode Website | Search
Groups of symbols: Punctuation | Arrows | Math

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
txttxt default.txt manage 958.8 K 03 Feb 2013 - 15:22 Main.JeffreyBarrick Mendeley journal abbreviation file
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Topic revision: r9 - 03 Feb 2013 - 15:27:01 - Main.JeffreyBarrick
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