Style, Ethics, and Corrections Guide

Code of Ethics

In our work to increase public understanding of science, we collaborate with reputable scientists and uphold the highest possible standards of scientific and journalistic integrity. We do not sensationalize, cherry-pick, or misrepresent the research reports. We do not report pseudoscience or mistake correlation for causation. We source peer-reviewed academic journals and strive to uphold the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Style Guide for Writers and Editors

Last Updated January 2021

Science Connected Magazine is a non-profit newsroom producing open-access science journalism and scientific fact-checking for the global public. We work to increase science literacy and public access to reliable information.

General Editorial Policies

  1. Science Connected Magazine translates complex research findings into accessible insights on science, nature, and society.
  2. We publish articles that are:
    1. about animals, archaeology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, citizen science, engineering, environment, geology, health, oceanography, paleontology, physics, science and art, science policy, technology, or other life sciences and physical sciences
    2. between approximately 700 and 900 words in length (short form), or between 900 and 2,500 words in length (long form);
    3. explanations of research papers that have been published in an academic peer-reviewed journal or a scientific society’s official report, or that have been presented at an academic conference, or something comparable;
    4. about positive, solution-based research; that is, articles that not only explain a problem but also present useful information and solutions for readers (such as how to reduce one’s carbon footprint) or good news to look forward to (such as less expensive solar energy or honeybee survival);
    5. based on press releases which are not overly self-congratulatory or speculatory, and which do actually report research findings;
    6. about studies that are based on valid research (to make sure a study is valid, here is a fun rough guide to types of scientific evidence);
    7. about pop-science and citizen-science topics, if deemed to be of sufficient interest to the community of readers; may include artistic representations of scientific concepts, informative photos and descriptions, or cool tech applications.
  3. We do not publish:
    1. political or partisan content;
    2. anything that contravenes our equal-opportunity policy;
    3. studies that merely promote a company with something to sell, such as the findings of a paid trial for a new medical product;
    4. any commercial links or content.

House Style

  1. Our editorial style is based primarily on the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) for matters of grammar, punctuation, and usage. For expressing numbers and measurements, we generally follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th edition). We embrace both sources’ guidelines for using clear, concise language and for avoiding biased or otherwise problematic language.
  2. Our editorial staff reviews all articles before publication to ensure consistency with our house style. Writers have the opportunity to discuss proposed revisions.

Titles and Subheadings

  1. The title, or headline, introduces your article at the top of the page.
    1. Titles can contain up to 48 characters, including spaces.
    2. Titles are written in headline style. The first letter of each word is capitalized, except for the following: articles; the conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor; and prepositions (except prepositions used adverbially or adjectivally). To and as are always lowercase. Remember that Is, which is a verb, is capitalized in this system.
    3. For organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes, make the title clear and descriptive, and use the focus keyword in the title (near the beginning, if possible).
    4. Attempt to make the headline a “hook.” Headlines that are intriguing or witty will attract attention, allowing you to reach a larger audience.
  2. Subheadings, or subtitles, introduce new sections of your article.
    1. Subheadings are useful in a longer article but not necessary in a shorter one.
    2. Subheadings should be descriptive and should add interest rather than simply restating the text that follows.
    3. Our house style uses sentence case for subheadings; that is, the first word and any proper nouns are capitalized, while all other words are lowercase.

Style Points

  1. For clarity, use simple sentence structures and plain English.
    • home rather than abode
    • after rather than subsequent to
    • if rather than in the event that
  2. Be as concise as possible by eliminating unnecessary words and repetition.
    • Researchers found that… rather than It was discovered during the study by those who conducted the study that
  3. Aim for objectivity and balance. Do not express a personal view, explicitly or implicitly, unless the article is clearly defined at the beginning as an opinion piece.
  4. Your first paragraph should make the theme or topic of the article clear to readers and begin with a “hook,” something that will keep them reading all the way to the conclusion.
  5. Avoid any biased language (sexism, racism, or other forms of prejudice). Most biased language can be avoided by not making generalizations about human behavior.
  6. Use humor with caution. It is only appropriate in op-ed or personal essay pieces. Making a joke can undermine the credibility of the article, and what is funny to the writer may not be so to all readers.
  7. Avoid using foreign words and phrases that are not scientific or are not in widespread English usage. If one serves a clear purpose, however, italicize the word or phrase and follow it immediately with a translation in parentheses.

Spelling, Vocabulary, and Reading Level

  1. Since 2019, the magazine is written exclusively in American English. If a writer uses British English spelling, please adjust accordingly. Punctuation will be edited to Chicago Manual of Style standards.
  2. All American English must follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) for preferred spelling and definitions.
  3. To make the text accessible to a large number of readers, we aim for approximately American school grades 9–13 reading levels. A rough approximation is fine; however, if you think an article might be too difficult to read and want to check (or just want to know more about reading level calculations), the Flesch–Kincaid readability test is a good way to quantify what you are reading. Here is a free online tool that Kate uses that gives an estimated grade level based on lexical and syntactical complexity—and if you are a word nerd like Kate, it’s fun.

Capitalization and Italicization

  1. See scientific terms for their correct capitalization and italicization.
  2. See headlines and subheadings for their appropriate capitalization.

Punctuation, Symbols, and Numbers

  1. Basic punctuation guidelines
    1. Use the serial comma before the final conjunction in a series.
      • The colors of the American flag are red, white, and blue.
    2. One space follows the ending punctuation mark of a sentence.
    3. Use parentheses, question marks, and exclamation marks only sparingly.
  2. Avoiding symbols
    1. Use words rather than symbols in prose.
      • or rather than a slash (/)
      • and rather than an ampersand (&)
      • percent rather than the percent sign (%)
    2. Be aware that some less common symbols might not carry over well from your original document into the online publishing format (your editor can check on this).
  3. Expressing numbers
    1. Use numerals for numbers 10 and higher; numbers immediately preceding units of measurement; numbers representing exact quantities or percentages; and numbers displaying time, money, or points on a scale.
      • measuring 75 cm in length
      • found that only 9 percent of the animals had reproduced
      • experiment took 45 minutes to complete
    2. Spell out numbers under 10 except as noted above; numbers used as words; numbers that begin a sentence, title, or heading; and numbers in common fractions.
      • In those two countries
      • people of the First Nations
      • Fourteen of these species
      • decided by a two-thirds majority
    3. Combine numerals and words to avoid confusion of numbers in close proximity, as well as to write large, round numbers.
      • two 5-kg cats
      • 4 million

Scientific Terms, Abbreviations, and Measurement

  1. Scientific terms
    1. If any term (scientific or other) merits definition, define it immediately before or after the first use; italicize the term at first use only.
    2. Italicize Latin binomials (genus and specific epithet) and capitalize the first letter of the genus only. These remain in italics throughout the article.
  • Homo sapiens
  1. Don’t italicize common names of animals. Only proper nouns within common names should be capitalized.
    • German shorthaired pointer
    • flamingo
  2. Don’t italicize common names of plants. Only proper nouns within common names should be capitalized. However, cultivar names are capitalized (but not italicized) and are enclosed in single quotation marks.
    • California buckeye
    • milkweed
    • Camellia japonica ‘Pink Perfection’
  1. Abbreviations
    1. If the name of a university, lab, or society has an abbreviation in common use, put the abbreviation in parentheses immediately following the first usage. Subsequently, just use the abbreviation.
    2. If an abbreviation or acronym is widely known (such as NASA), there is no need to spell it out. When in doubt, it’s safer to assume that it’s not widely known.
    3. In most cases, follow an initial that stands for a name with a period and a space.
      • E. B. White
  2. Measurement
    1. To give percentages, use a numeric value and the word percent.
      • 50 percent of the population
    2. Abbreviate only the most common scientific measurements, such as height, weight, and distance, and then only when they are accompanied by specific numeric values.
      • 15 cm long
      • weighs 20 kg
    3. Spell out more technical units of measurement at first mention and include the abbreviation in parentheses; use the abbreviation thereafter.
      • mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
    4. Whenever possible, give standard measurements in metric format with imperial equivalents in parentheses.

Quotations

  1. Quotations should be pertinent and must always be clearly attributed.
  2. Use the present tense to describe the speaking/writing action of the person being quoted:
    • Researcher Name explains, “This experiment was the first of its kind, so no one knew what to expect.”
    • “These results should have a profound effect on the study of botany,” says Researcher Name.
  3. Give the quoted person’s full name at first mention; use just the last name thereafter (titles such as “Dr.” are not necessary).
  4. Use a comma when introducing a one-sentence quotation that remains within a paragraph. Use a colon when introducing longer quotations that remain within a paragraph, or at the end of a paragraph that introduces a new paragraph of quoted material.
  5. Quotations more than five lines long will be highlighted as block quotes. Use these sparingly. A very long quotation (more than 50 words) should only be used if it is engaging and relevant. Otherwise, please paraphrase.
  6. Quotations should always be given verbatim. If a speaker lacks clarity, paraphrase instead of quoting, using important elements of the original quotation in a run-in quotation (introductory punctuation not usually required).
    • Scientist’s Name, the lead researcher for this study, warns that climate change would “irreparably destroy the ecosystem” of this region.
  7. Place punctuation at the end of a direct quotation inside the final quotation mark, unless the sentence continues after the quotation.

Citations and References

  1. Include a list of references at the end of your article. Title it References. These should be primary sources—not blogs, opinion sites, Wikipedia pages, or commercial sites. If you include a hyperlink in this list, whether within one of the references or as a separate source, make sure the link goes to a page that can be accessed for free; we cannot publish any links to sources behind paywalls.
  2. Reference lists at the end of articles must be in APA 7 format. See this APA resource for formatting advice or consult the APA 7 style manual. (Note that online automatic citation generators often result in incorrect formatting.)
    1. Do not link to a journal article behind a paywall; provide just the reference instead.
      • Badel, L., Ohta, K., Tsuchimoto, Y., & Kazama, H. (2016). Decoding of context-dependent olfactory behavior in Drosophila. Neuron, 91(1), 155–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.05.022
    2. Include a link for a journal article that is free to read (also known as “open access”).
  3. Citations, affiliations, sources, and so forth may be handled differently in different kinds of articles; see guidelines and examples below.
    1. Summary of a scientific paper: Mention the professional affiliation of the key researchers near the beginning of your article. To avoid confusion, refer to them as “researchers,” “scientists,” or other appropriate terms, rather than as “authors,” since they’re not the authors of your article. However, be sure to use proper attribution. See this overview of the differences between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Use a final paragraph to disclose the name of the academic journal or conference, as well as any sources of funding. If the original source is available for free online, provide a link to it.
    2. Photo essay: This is usually a first-person narrative without citations.
    3. Opinion-editorial (op-ed) piece: These usually rely on the author’s own research and expertise. To streamline user experience, we do not usually include citation numbers within the text. If you have sources other than your own work, list them in a final section titled either References or References and Further Reading.
    4. Expert discussion piece: Same as op-ed piece. References are optional.
    5. Combination of scientific paper and consumer tech: Our readers love scientific discoveries that are in the process of being developed into awesome consumer products! List references, links, or resources as needed.
    6. Other: Contact your editor for advice.

Image Rights, Captions, and Credits

  1. Photographs and scientific illustrations usually have captions.
  2. Generic or artistic illustrations do not usually need captions.
  3. If we don’t own an image, it must be followed by the copyright holder’s attribution. Even if a copyright holder waives the right to a photo credit, we give one as a professional courtesy.
  4. We can embed a YouTube video that is published under the Standard YouTube License without express permission from the copyright owner. However, we like to reach out to the owner as a professional courtesy. 
  5. Please include any captions or attributions with your submitted article so that they can be edited along with the rest of the text. 
  6. Watch out for images having insufficient copyright information or lacking clear ownership. Even images found on Wikimedia Commons are not always safe to use. Science Connected has been a target for malicious lawsuits, so we must be diligent. If there is any question about an image, flag or remove it.

Internal and External Links

  1. We do not allow links to external websites (with the exception of links to open-access sources in the References list) except under special circumstances. Please remove links to other websites and convert them into references, without hyperlinks, if used as valid source material. 
  2. If you see a link to a commercial website (a website that sells something), please flag it and notify an editor immediately! Commercial links are not permitted. Any external links used should be informative, non-commercial, and free.
  3. We allow one link to the author’s personal blog or professional profile (such as a faculty page at a university) and one social media profile link (such as Twitter).
  4. When editing, please add internal links, which are links to other Science Connected articles, whenever possible. We have many articles in our archives on a wide variety of topics. Please add links to those as appropriate, anchored to relevant text in the article you are editing.

Diversity and Journalism

  1. Reporting on issues involving race and gender calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language, and an openness to discussions with others of diverse backgrounds about how to frame coverage or what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair. As our culture grows and conversations evolve, these can be moving targets. Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person’s identity and may or may not be pertinent to the scientific research being discussed.
  2. Please check the resources below for assistance with writing about age, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ terminology, gender, religion, etc. 
    1. Diversity Style Guide 
    2. Associated Press Stylebook on Race-Related Coverage
    3. The Association of LGBTQ Journalists Stylebook on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Terminology

Corrections Policy

  1. Science Connected Magazine Corrections Policy:
    1. Corrections are an important part of news journalism. Transparency is a core value of Science Connected. We have internal editors and fact-checkers doing everything in our power to avoid publishing mistakes, but sometimes they happen, so we are committed to correcting them openly and honestly.
  2. When to issue a correction
    1. Corrections are issued for errors of fact — not misspellings, typos, or broken links. If you notice one of those in your article, notify your editor. These issues are rare, as they are usually caught by the copy editors prior to publication.
    2. There is no need to apologize for a correction. It is simply a statement.
  3. Correction or update?
    1. Updates can be appended to an article to reflect important new, relevant  information that has come to light since publication. Corrections are for mistakes.
  4. How to write a correction
    1. Verify your information! If you have to issue a correction, make sure it is, in fact, correct. Having to later correct a correction is sloppy journalism.
    2. If the error was brought to your attention by a reader, a person or organization mentioned in the article, or other party, be sure to thank them via the channel through which they reached out to you. For example, if they contact you via Twitter, tag them in a thank you response.
    3. If you need to issue a correction, draft it and email it to your editor.
    4. A correction should be appended to the end of a previously-published article. Briefly restate the error and provide the corrected information. Examples follow.
  5. Sample correction statements
    1. [Person]’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.
    2. Blue Cross’s CEO could not be reached for comment. An earlier version of this post said Blue Cross’s CFO could not be reached for comment.
    3. The Skin Deep Database supplies hazard ratings for some 70,000 items. A previous version of this article misstated the number.