Check journal requirements

Some journals, publishers, and graduate schools specify a capitalization style; others don't. Make every effort to mimic the style of the journal in which you intend to publish. Examine recent issues. Note the figure legends, table captions, reference lists, and typescript headings and subheadings. You will probably find a definite capitalization style, even if one has not been spelled out formally in the publication's Instructions to Authors.

Capitalization is particularly variable in reference citations. Sometimes, article titles have the significant words capitalized. However, many journals prefer that article or chapter titles be treated as though they were sentences.

Capitalized article title: Yalow, R. S. and S. A. Bernson. 1959. Assay of Plasma Insulin in Human Subjects by Immunological Methods. Nature 184: 1648-1649.

Sentence-style article title: Guhl, A. M. 1968. Social inertia and social stability in chickens. Animal Behaviour 16: 219-232.

Exercise 7.2. Capitalization

Indicate accepted capitalization in the following sentences and titles.


The afghan hound ate plaster of paris.


The Study Sample included 15 greyhounds, 14 malamutes, and 10 spanish terriers.


adenine and guanine are nucleotides called purines.


A person can live normally without the Adrenal Medullae, but not without the Cortices.


these bacteria inhabit all Biomes of the northern hemisphere.


A book title: what's so funny about science? by sidney harris


The title of a scientific research paper capitalized by the "significant word" system: assessment of the role of alcohol in the human stress response


A research paper title capitalized by the sentence system: A Synopsis Of The Taxonomy Of North American And West Indian Birds

Treat scientific names properly

The scientific names of all animals, plants, and microorganisms are based on the rules set forth in the most recent edition of one of four codes, which authors and editors are obligated to accept:

International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria. 1992. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology.

Virus Taxonomy: Classification and Nomenclature of Viruses. Seventh Report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. 2000. New York: Academic Press.

International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. 4th ed. 1999. London: International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature.

International Code ofBotanical Nomenclature (St. Louis Code), adopted by the Sixteenth International Botanical Congress, St. Louis, 1999, 2000. Konigstein: Koeltz Scientific Books.

Because of differences in usage and in the nature of the organisms themselves, the four major codes differ in some aspects of terminology. For example, in botany a scientific name such as Acer rubrum is a "binomial" composed of a generic name and "specific epithet." In bacteriology, a name such as Staphylococcus aureus is a "binary combination." In zoology, Homo sapiens is a "binomen," and the specific epithet sapiens is a "specific name."

The codes also differ somewhat in practice. For example, the botanical code recognizes both subspecies and varieties. The zoological code also recognizes subspecies, but only those varieties named before 1961. The bacteriological code considers subspecies and varieties to be synonymous.

Additional useful references on bacterial nomenclature include Approved Lists of Bacterial Names (Skerman, 1989) and Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology (Holt et al., 1994). Other helpful resources on biological nomenclature include Calisher and Fauquet (1992) and Jeffrey (1992).

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