Saturday, July 6, 2013

Journal formatting tip: Nomenclature

Most of the time, scientific journals provide relatively clear instructions for formatting passages. While inconsistencies may exist between reference formatting guidelines and samples provided in their print articles, you can usually format the text with your eyes closed.

That is, until you encounter the British Journal of Haematology. Then, you are told "the main categories of headings are side capitals, side italics and shoulder italics".

Incredibly, the search engines (yes, all of them) yielded nothing but an unanswered forum query. 

To be fair, the guidelines suggest that authors refer to recent issues of the journal, but the indirectness makes it appear as if they're trying to get more people to actually read their articles.

That probably isn't true, but I think it can be improved. Typically, headings appear on a separate line from the main text. Thus:

This is a typical main heading

This is a typical subheading

Here is a section heading

This is a subsection heading

Sometimes, authors are instructed to place section headings in line with the text. THIS is what "shoulder italics/capitals" means! To wit:

This is a side capital heading*

This is a side italics heading

This is a shoulder italics heading. The text starts here.

Therefore, "side" and "shoulder" respectively refer to the "side" of the page and "shoulder" of the paragraph, i.e., in line with the text. Now it's easy, no?

* This might or might not be all caps/upper case, sentence/title case, or bolded; it depends on the journal.