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Writing for a Nature journal

Before writing a paper, authors are advised to visit the author information pages of the
journal to which they wish to submit (see this link for a full list of NPG publications).
Each journal has slightly different format requirements depending on readership, space,
style and so on. The journal's website will contain detailed information about format,
length limits, figure preparation, and similar matters. If your questions are not answered
on these pages or through our recommended guidelines below, we suggest you contact
the journals editorial office for further guidance before submitting. Contact information
for the editorial offices can be found on the journal websites.
We also strongly recommend that authors read a few issues of the journal to which they
wish to submit, to obtain a sense of the level, length and readership of the journal.
Looking at the print issue, or at PDFs in the online edition, is particularly useful for
details such as presentation of figures or style of reference numbering. (All NPG
journals have a free online issue of the journal for those who do not subscribe or have
site-licence access, which can be accessed via the journal's "about" web page.)
Nature journals are international, so in writing a paper, authors should consider those
readers for whom English is a second language. The journals are read mainly by
professional scientists, so authors can avoid unnecessary simplification or didactic
definitions. However, many readers are outside the immediate discipline of the
author(s), so clarity of expression is needed to achieve the goal of comprehensibility.
(See the section below for links to some websites that provide writing help and advice.)
Nature journals prefer authors to write in the active voice ("we performed the
experiment...") as experience has shown that readers find concepts and results to be
conveyed more clearly if written directly. We have also found that use of several
adjectives to qualify one noun in highly technical language can be confusing to readers.
We encourage authors to "unpackage" concepts and to present their findings and
conclusions in simply constructed sentences.
Many papers submitted for publication in a Nature journal contain unnecessary
technical terminology, unreadable descriptions of the work that has been done, and
convoluted figure legends. Our journal subeditors and copyeditors edit the manuscript
so that it is grammatically correct, logical, clear and concise, uses consistent search
terms, and so that the terminology is consistent with that used in previous papers
published in the journal. Of course, this process is assisted greatly if the authors have
written the manuscript in a simple and accessible style, as the author is the best person
to convey the message of the paper and to persuade readers that it is important enough
to spend time on.
We ask authors to avoid jargon and acronyms where possible. When essential, they
should be defined at first use; after first use, the author should use pronouns when
possible rather than using the abbreviation or acronym at every occurrence. The
acronym is second-nature to the author but is not to the reader, who may have to refer to
the original definition throughout the paper when an acronym is used.

Titles need to be comprehensible and enticing to a potential reader quickly scanning a

table of contents or performing an online search, while at the same time not being so
general or vague as to obscure what the paper is about. We ask authors to be aware of
abstracting and indexing services when devising a title for the paper: providing one or
two essential keywords within a title will be beneficial for web-search results.
Within the text of papers, Nature journals use a numbering (Vancouver) system for
references, not the Harvard method whereby the authors and year of publication are
included in the text in parentheses. We adopt this numbering style because we believe
the text flows more smoothly, and hence is quicker for the reader to absorb.
Our experience has shown that a paper's impact is maximized if it is as short as is
consistent with providing a focused message, with a few crucial figures or tables.
Authors can place technical information (figures, protocols, methods, tables, additional
data) necessary to support their conclusion into Supplementary Information (SI), which
is published online-only to accompany the published print/online paper. SI is peerreviewed, and we believe that its use means that the impact of the conclusions of the
study is enhanced by being presented in concise and focused form in the print/online
journal, emphasizing the key conclusions of the research and yet providing the full
supporting details required by others in the field in online-only form. We encourage
authors to use SI in this way to enhance the impact of the print/online version, and
hence to increase its readership. Authors are asked to provide short "signposts" at
appropriate points in their paper to indicate that SI is present to expand on a particular
point (for example "for more details, see figure x in SI) so that readers can navigate
easily to the relevant information. We also encourage authors who are describing
methods and protocols to provide the full details as SI.
We all face the challenge of how to make the best use of our time in an era of
information overload. Judicious use of SI to ensure that the printed version of a paper is
clear, comprehensible and as short as is consistent with this goal, is very likely to
increase the paper's readership, impact and the number of times others cite it.
Nature Physics: the Editorial Elements of style explains the importance of clear and
accessible writing. The advice contained within this Editorial applies to all the Nature
Please let us know by email if you find this advice useful, and if you have
suggestions or comments about our provision of writing advice to authors.
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How to write a scientific paper

A number of articles and websites provide detailed guidelines and advice about writing
and submitting scientific papers. Some suggested sources are:

SciDev.Net's Practical guides section (including How to submit a paper to a

scientific journal and How to write a scientific paper)

The Human Frontier Science Program's report Websites and Searching for
Collaborations also contains useful writing guidelines for non-native-English
speakers, as well as other helpful advice related to scientific publishing

The classic book Elements of Style by William J. Strunk, Jr (Humphrey, New

York, 1918) is now published by Bartleby.com (New York, 1999) and is freely
available on the web in searchable format.

Advice about how to write a Nature journal paper is provided in the Nature
Physics Editorial Elements of style.

Advice about how to write a summary paragraph (abstract) in Nature Letter

format is available as a one-page downloadable information sheet.

An amusing but pertinent algorithm, How to write a paper (one possible answer)
is at Nature Network's New York blog.

Researchers whose first language is not English often find it useful to either ask a
colleague whose native language is English to review the manuscript before submission
to a journal, or to use one of the many services that will, for a fee, edit papers to ensure
the English is clear and well written. One such service is Nature Publishing Group
Language Editing.