Chemistry

There are standard chemical symbols for elements, e.g. Ca for calcium, Hg for mercury, which can be used depending on your preferences.

Mass number is a superscript to the left of the symbol, e.g. carbon-14 is 14C, uranium-238 is 238U.

Units of measurement

For simplicity, it is better to use abbreviations for units of measurement as it is faster to read and saves space. The abbreviation should appear with a space between it and the number (e.g. 8 metres becomes 8 m). Note, with units of measurement, the number, even if it is below 10, should always appear as a numeral (e.g. eight should be written as 8). Most units of measurement are written in lowercase, but see the list below.

Length: millimetre is abbreviated as: mm
centimetre is abbreviated as: cm
metre is abbreviated as: m
kilometre is abbreviated as: km
Mass: gram is abbreviated as: g
kilogram is abbreviated as: kg
tonne is abbreviated as: t
Volume: millilitre is abbreviated as: ml
litre is abbreviated as: l
kilolitre is abbreviated as: kl
Imperial (US): ounce is abbreviated as: oz
pound is abbreviated as: lb
inch is abbreviated as: in
foot is abbreviated as: ft
yard is abbreviated as: yd
mile is not abbreviated (to avoid it being confused with millilitre)
gallon is abbreviated as: gal
Others: When to capitalise units. If the unit is named after a person, the abbreviation of the unit is usually capitalised.
E.g.  newton (force) = N
         pascal (pressure) = Pa
         kilojoule (energy) = kJ
kilometres per hour = km/h
miles per hour = mph

There is no full stop placed immediately after the abbreviation for a unit of measurement and no plural (‘s’).

Units of area/volume

Units of area/volume should be consistently abbreviated, rather than written out in full, as per the following examples:

Metric: 3 m2 Imperial: 3 sq ft

(Note, only metric abbreviations use the superscript format.)

Compound adjectival expressions involving measurement

Hyphenate as follows:

A 6-m-long fence   OR   A 6-metre-long fence

A 6-m-long (2 ft) fence   OR   A 6-metre-long (2 foot) fence

              [where imperial alternative is to be shown]

Formatting scientific names (natural history)

Botanical and zoological names take italic type (when available) for genera, species and sub-species. Higher taxonomic units (family, order, class, phylum, kingdom) take ordinary type. The classification of man is as follows:

Animalia (kingdom), Chordata (phylum), Mammalia (class), Primates (order), Hominidae (family), Homininae (subfamily), Homo (genus, italic), sapiens (species, italic).

Taxonomic identifications usually consist of two names, e.g. Canis familiaris, the dog, but may include more in specialised work. The genus name, Canis, is always first and takes a capital. Thespecies name, familiaris, is always lower case. In subsequent references, the genus name may be abbreviated to a letter (C. familiaris). Where the name of the discoverer follows the species name, it is not in italic.

Scientific Quote Marks

It is important to use the correct quotation marks in scientific writing because if you make a mistake this could change the meaning in a serious way. For example, be sure to use the correct symbol for feet and inches, as opposed to typing in a single or double quotation mark on your keyboard.

Depending on what software and fonts you are using, typing the keyboard button for quotation marks will result in either straight or curly quotes. The only true way to insert a prime symbol or a double prime for feet and inches is to use the 'Insert Symbol' function of your software (or in InDesign use the Glyphs palette). For HTML the entity code for prime is: ′ and for double prime is: ″

Read more about the correct symbols for apostrophes and quote marks on Quotations.

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