The CSE Manual 9th Edition

Scientific Style and Format for Authors, Editors, and Publishers


About This Edition

“What’s SSF? Never heard of it. I use the CSE manual.” Despite being used for 30 years and 3 editions, Scientific Style and Format never caught on as the main title for the style manual produced by the Council of Science Editors (CSE). Nor did the manual’s edition-specific initialisms, SSF6, SSF7, and SSF8. Instead, survey results and anecdotal evidence indicate that CSE members, researchers, and others refer to the style guide as simply “the CSE manual.”

Consequently, for the ninth edition, the CSE Board of Directors retitled the style manual to align with the prevailing preference of those who use it, as well as to emphasize that the manual is the council’s official style guide. By transposing elements from the manual’s main title and subtitle, the new title, The CSE Manual: Scientific Style and Format for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, echoes the titles used for the manual’s third, fourth, and fifth editions. In essence, to quote electrical engineer Steven Magee, “Sometimes you make more progress by going backwards.”

Reviving one of the manual’s previous titles is not the only way that the ninth edition is building on previous editions.1–8 Here are some of the others.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

The entire team that revised The CSE Manual sought to ensure that its contents reflect CSE’s commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) in scientific publishing. The following changes were made to the ninth edition with the understanding that societal standards will evolve and the guidelines in this edition reflect the revision team’s advice at the time of publication.

The DEI guidelines in the ninth edition mirror the CSE Board of Directors’ 2020 policy statement on capitalizing racial and ethnic designations.9 When race or ethnicity is pertinent to research manuscripts, the ninth edition specifies capitalizing the designations of “Black,” “White,” and “Indigenous,” and it introduces “Latinx” as a gender-neutral alternative to “Latino” and “Latina.” These updates are detailed in Section 7.4, “Inclusive Language,” and Section 8.3, “Human Groups.” To ensure that these guidelines reflect CSE’s commitment to DEI, both sections were peer reviewed by the 2021–2023 chairs of CSE’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee: Otito Frances Iwuchukwu, PharmD, MA, PhD, FCP, CPTD, and Leonard Jack Jr, PhD, MSc.

Section 7.4 now also offers advice on when using the “singular they” is justified, as when referring to individuals who identify as nonbinary and to those whose gender is unknown or undisclosed for confidentiality or study-masking purposes. The section also stresses that using plural antecedents with plural pronouns is usually preferable to using singular antecedents with the “singular they.”

Another concern addressed in Section 7.4 is avoiding stereotypical language, such as by substituting common-gender terms like “meteorologist” for gender-specific terms like “weatherman” and by using person-first descriptions, such as “patients with diabetes mellitus,” instead of depersonalizing terms, such as “diabetics.”

In addition, for the ninth edition, Section 7.11 was renamed from “Difficulties for Authors for Whom English Is a Second Language” to “Scientific English for Multilingual Authors.” This section was refocused to address the challenges that authors face when writing scientific English if they are familiar with academic traditions that differ from Western scientific traditions. For example, Section 7.11 describes the differences between digressive writing and direct scientific English.

To make the manual less focused on male scientists in the United States conducting medical research, many examples throughout the manual were revised to highlight the contributions of female scientists, researchers from around the world, and investigators from a wide variety of scientific disciplines. Such examples in the ninth edition include Chinese paleontologist Meemann Chang, PhD; Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist May-Britt Moser, PhD; French explorer and botanist Jeanne Baret; and Canadian physician and chemist Maud Leonora Menten, MD, PhD.

Furthermore, the ninth edition was revised and peer reviewed by a wide variety of science editors from 6 continents. By recruiting an international team to revise The CSE Manual, CSE not only enhanced the manual’s relevance for English-language publications around the world, but the council also demonstrated its commitment to strengthen its relationships with such organizations as the African Journal Partnership Program, the Brazilian Association of Science Editors, the Korean Council of Science Editors, and the Asian Council of Science Editors.

The diverse team of contributors to the ninth edition includes editors in chief, publication directors, managing editors, manuscript editors, freelance editors, and even a space systems engineer. The chapter editors and reviewers included 18 with academic doctoral degrees and another 18 with master’s degrees. Six hold the physician degree of either MD or MBBS, 20 are certified as editors in the life sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, and 1 is a doctor of jurisprudence. Additionally, 4 are former CSE presidents, and 2 are former editors of CSE’s publication Science Editor.

Finally, the online version of the ninth edition complies with the international standards of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA, including the guidelines for using alternative text for all content presented as art. The manual’s online version is available at

Enhanced Digital Guidelines

To address the perpetually evolving electronic environment in scientific writing and publishing, a chapter titled “Digital Standards of Scholarly Journal Publishing” was added to The CSE Manual. Written by Sun Huh, MD, PhD, while he served as the president of both the Korean Council of Science Editors and the Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors, the new Chapter 33 covers topics ranging from the basic elements of journal home pages and the variety of Crossref services to journal metrics and artificial intelligence in scholarly publishing.

Additionally, content throughout the rest of the manual has been updated to reflect the growing prominence of electronic publishing compared with print publishing. For example, Chapter 32, “Proof Correction,” was reorganized so that it covers annotating PDF proofs before it addresses marking paper proofs.

Overhauled Recommendations on References

Building on the eighth edition’s switch to using the citation–sequence format for references, Chapter 29, “References,” has undergone a major overhaul for The CSE Manual’s ninth edition. The requirements for end references were revised to promote conciseness and efficiency. In the process, the chapter was substantially shortened by eliminating redundant, obsolete, and other unnecessary content.

One major change in the ninth edition is to the rule on the number of authors to list in end references to documents with 6 or more authors. Under the revised recommendation, only the first author should be named before using “et al,” instead of the first 5 authors. This change brings CSE’s reference style in line with that of prominent scientific journals, most notably the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

To further promote conciseness, the revised chapter recommends removing access dates from the end references to most online sources because those dates are no longer as relevant as they were in the early days of online publishing. Under the updated guidelines, access dates are recommended only for online sources for which the date of publication, copyright, or revision cannot be determined. Also removed from end references is the place of publication for book publishers, which has become less relevant because research works are easy to find online and because many book publishers have multiple locations.

The ninth edition recommends digital object identifiers (DOIs) as the preferred uniform resource locators in end references for online documents, when DOIs are available.

The revisions to Chapter 29 also include a new section on referencing journal preprints.

Expanded Guidance on Tables and Figures

To bolster the manual’s guidance for visually representing data in scientific manuscripts, Chapter 30, “Tables, Figures, and Indexes,” features 12 new figures that illustrate designs for graphs and 6 revised figures that illustrate how tables should be designed.

American versus British Conventions

The ninth edition takes care to distinguish between American conventions and British conventions, but the manual does not specify which is preferred. Instead, the ninth edition recommends that publications select one convention and apply it consistently throughout the publications.

Among the most apparent differences between American and British conventions is the use of quotation marks. Where American convention uses double quotation marks, British convention uses single quotation marks, and vice versa. In many circumstances, British convention places periods and commas outside closing quotation marks, while American convention never does.

Whereas the eighth edition recommended a hybrid between American and British conventions for quotation marks, the ninth edition recommends that publications pick one convention or the other (see Sections 5.3.4, “Quotation Marks,” and 10.2.1, “Run-in Quotations”). However, to demonstrate how to follow a convention consistently, the ninth edition adheres to the American convention throughout the rest of the manual.

Real Examples

The CSE Manual was enhanced by removing examples that had been fabricated and those that were from general literature and replacing them with real examples from scientific literature. As a consequence, examples in the ninth edition use the names of known scientists and recognized scientific institutions. For instance, where the eighth edition illustrated how to separate family name suffixes from surnames by using as an example Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr, a son of the 32nd US president, the ninth edition uses pharmacologist and biochemist Earl Wilbur Sutherland Jr, MD, and hyperbaric medicine researcher Edmund Converse Peirce II, MD.

Sensible Expectations for Authors

Some guidelines in The CSE Manual have limited value to authors, even though they are significant to manuscript editors and copy editors. As chapter editor and former CSE president Thomas A. Lang, MA, stressed throughout the process of developing the ninth edition, “Telling authors how to create an en and an em dash or the point sizes of rules in a table is a waste of time. A good copy editor would flag those issues.” Consequently, the ninth edition advises authors on such issues. For example, Section, “En Dash,” advises, “Authors can rely on manuscript editors to spot any hyphens that should be converted to en dashes.”

Nevertheless, for those authors interested in using correct punctuation and symbols, the ninth edition provides Unicodes when recommending characters not on keyboards (eg, Unicode 2032 for the prime symbol and Unicode 2009 for a thin space).

Refreshed Online Edition

The online version of the ninth edition includes a fresh design and new accessibility features. Corrections and updates will be made to this version as necessary. The online version is available at

General Revisions

Each time The CSE Manual is revised, all existing chapters are reviewed for content that should be added, updated, clarified, or deleted, and the manual is revised accordingly. One of the primary goals for the ninth edition was to make the manual easier to read and comprehend. The chapter editors accomplished this by refining the language and creating a more coherent manual.

Other significant updates made to the ninth edition include the following:

  • • Cross-references to other sections in the manual were updated to include the section titles, not just the section numbers. This update provides users with clues about the content provided in the cross-references. In addition, as with the eighth edition, cross-references in the online version of the ninth edition are hyperlinked to the corresponding sections so that users can quickly and easily navigate to those sections.
  • • Guidance on avoiding sentence fragments was enhanced in Section, “Incorrect Uses.”
  • • The rationale for using quotation marks instead of italics for words as words and phrases as phrases is clarified in Section, “Double Quotation Marks.” Because The CSE Manual relies heavily on words as words and phrases as phrases, this convention is used far more extensively throughout the manual than is common in most publications.
  • Section, “Multiterm Titles,” clarifies that the rules on title-style capitalization dictate capitalizing or lowercasing words based on their parts of speech, not on word length.
  • Section 11.2, “Punctuation and Typography,” now calls for using commas before and after initialisms for degrees and other credentials used after surnames.
  • Section 11.5, “Abbreviations of Common Latin Terms,” recommends eliminating periods for standard Latin abbreviations such as “eg” and “ie” to bring these abbreviations into adherence with The CSE Manual’s general recommendation to eliminate periods in abbreviations whenever reasonable.
  • Section 26.2, “Capitalization and Lowercase,” specifies that the term “Earth” should be capitalized in nearly all cases. The lowercased “earth” should be reserved for referring to soil.
  • • The index has been revised and expanded.

Scientific Scope

As with previous editions of this style manual, the ninth edition focuses primarily on scientific nomenclature, symbols, and other style issues. The principles governing these guidelines are presented in sufficient detail to make clear the rationale for them. The manual does not provide comprehensive lists of scientific terms and conventions for all scientific disciplines, nor does the manual outline the fundamental concepts of all these disciplines. Authoritative documents are available in many disciplines to guide authors to understand these larger issues. References to many such resources are provided in the cited and additional references at the end of relevant chapters.


The overall organization of the ninth edition follows that of the eighth edition. The manual is divided into the following 4 parts:

  • • Part 1, “Publishing Fundamentals,” serves as an overview of essential issues related to scientific publishing, including editorial policies and copyright.
  • • Part 2, “General Style Conventions,” outlines guidelines for style issues that are common to general and scientific publishing.
  • • Part 3, “Special Scientific Conventions,” focuses on style issues specific to a variety of scientific disciplines.
  • • Part 4, “Technical Elements of Publications,” recommends formats applicable in scientific journals, books, and other media, including formats for references, tables, figures, and indexes.

Part 3, whose content is the most specific to scientific publishing, is organized according to a rising scale of dimensions. The part starts with chapters on the fundamental units of matter; proceeds up through chapters on chemical and cellular components, microorganisms, and macroorganisms; and finishes with chapters on the planet Earth and the rest of the universe.

Within each chapter, the section numbering is hierarchical. Primary sections are those that are numbered by the chapter number, a decimal point, and only one other number (eg, Section 13.2, “Time”). Secondary sections have numbers with 2 decimal points (eg, Section 7.3.2, “Active versus Passive Voice”), and tertiary sections have numbers with 3 decimal points (eg, Section, “Salinity of Seawater”). Each additional lower section has one additional decimal point and number.

Throughout the manual, primary and lower sections are all labeled as “sections,” instead of designating them as “sections,” “subsections,” “subsubsections,” and beyond.

In the online version of CSE’s ninth edition, each primary section and its accompanying lower sections constitute a single web page. Because web pages are the main means of dividing the manual’s content online, initialisms and other abbreviations are generally introduced at first use of the spelled-out terms within each primary section. Once introduced in a primary section, abbreviations are used throughout that section and its lower sections in both the online and print editions. Abbreviations are reintroduced with each new primary section, even when primary sections are adjacent to each other.

Qualification on Examples

Although great care was taken to ensure that the examples in the ninth edition adhere to the style guidelines within The CSE Manual, users are advised to give preference to the manual’s written guidelines over its examples should they disagree.

Recommendations for Future Editions

This manual reflects the ongoing, collective knowledge of CSE members and others in the scientific publishing community. Given the dynamic nature of scientific fields and publishing practices, some topics will continue to evolve beyond what is covered in the ninth edition. For example, as online and other digital platforms evolve, The CSE Manual will need to focus even more on electronic publishing. Additionally, artificial intelligence is likely to play an ever-greater role in writing, processing, and publishing manuscripts. Future editions may even have to offer style guidance for metaverse-based platforms, complete with avatars.

Future editions of The CSE Manual will also benefit from updating examples with ones that cite new research and researchers from around the world in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

Future editions should explore whether diversity, equity, and inclusivity can be promoted by modifying end references to include the given names of authors and other creators instead of initials for first and middle names. Current reference practices obscure the contributions of female researchers because end references do not provide these researchers’ first names.

Another opportunity to enhance cited and additional references in future editions is to include more entries from CSE’s quarterly publication, Science Editor, which can be accessed at Doing so will strengthen CSE’s connection to The CSE Manual.

Because monitoring the scientific literature for new style conventions, nomenclature, and notations is a huge task, CSE urges scientific journals, societies, committees, working groups, individual scientists, publishing professionals, and others to share with CSE recommendations for improving scientific style and format. Such recommendations can range from proposing additional topics to cover in the manual to pointing out style discrepancies in the ninth edition. The CSE Style Manual Task Force will review those suggestions in consultation with subject-matter experts and decide which recommendations to incorporate into future editions.

Send suggestions to CSE via email to

Cited References

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

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

3. Council of Biology Editors, Committee on Form and Style. CBE style manual. 3rd ed. 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. Council of Biology Editors; 1978.

5. Council of Biology Editors, Style Manual Committee. CBE style manual: a guide for authors, editors, and publishers in the biological sciences. 5th ed, revised and expanded. 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. 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. Council of Science Editors; 2006.

8. Council of Science Editors, Style Manual Subcommittee. Scientific style and format: the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers. 8th ed. Council of Science Editors in cooperation with The University of Chicago Press; 2014. Also available at

9. Council of Science Editors, Board of Directors. Scientific Style and Format update: capitalize racial and ethnic group designations. Council of Science Editors; 2020.

[ Back to top ]