I'm working on my first publication on work I did as an undergrad. My adviser from undergrad will be helping me edit and go through multiple drafts, but because I'm now at a different university for grad school I haven't spoken to him about this first draft.

I've looked at the publisher's website, but they were vague and provided only general comments about how to format the manuscript. I don't want to send my draft to my old adviser and have him think I'm an idiot because my formatting is different from the norm. (Perhaps relevant: this publication has to do with marine biology and physiology.)

  1. What font is appropriate? Times New Roman 12?

  2. Double spaced?

  3. Do figures go at the end? Should I space my figures the way I want them spaced in the publication?

  4. Do I include line numbers?

Side question: What is an appropriate length (in number of words/pages/whatever) for this type of publication? I know it depends on the journal, but it's hard to translate pages in a journal to typewritten pages. I'm submitting to a journal with an average impact factor.

3 Answers 3


The general formatting advice from @CapeCode is sound. Generic font (certainly not anything odd) and 1.5-2 line spacing is fine for the text. Tables and figures should go at then end. Many journals ask for figure files not to be included in the manuscript file at all, follow such advise. If figures are separate all figure captions go at the end of the manuscript file.

Regarding line numbers it is not a major issue unless the journal specifies something special. Some manuscript systems provide only PDF-files of the manuscript. Some reviewers then prefer to have the line numbers to locate their comments. If the journal provides the Word files then as @Cape Code states these can be more of an issue. So try to see if you can figure out what the journal sends out but in the end I do nto think it is a major issue.

In addition, I strongly want to push following any instructions for authors to the point. Make sure your use the proper reference formats and follow other journal formatting details. If no explicit instructions for authors exist then look at recent articles to see what styles the journal uses. A manuscript that follows the journal style looks more serious than a manuscript that does not.

As for length, I would say that 6000-8000 words incl. references is a reasonable size for a regular research paper in your disciplines, shorter is possible but longer should be treated as a warning. If you really want to know just count the words on a page and guestimate the total for the article, you will not be far off.


At this stage, content is what you should focus on. In most biology journals, formatting is done by the publisher. Thus formatting at this stage only serves the purpose of making your draft easy to read and comment on, so to answer your questions:

What font is appropriate? Times New Roman 12?

If your adviser usually reads on a screen, consider using a sans serif typeface (Calibri, Arial, etc.), if read on paper TNR is fine.

Double spaced?

Only useful for people who print it out and need space to scribble.

Do figures go at the end? Should I space my figures the way I want them spaced in the publication?

For the convenience of your adviser, you should include them where you think they are relevant. It's usually editorial management software that place them at the end (which makes reading draft cumbersome). Consider using a smaller font size for captions to help differentiate them from the body.

Do I include line numbers?

Can be helpful if you do not use interactive commenting tool (like the one of MS Word) it never hurts to have them IMO, make sure they are continuous, and include page numbers by all means.

Note: this only applies to internal circulation, you might need to re-format for submission following the journal's guidelines.


Most of these would depend on which journal/conference you are submitting to. For instance, IEEE and Springer each have their own style.

  • Unfortunately, your answer doesn't really add anything that it's already in the other answers.
    – mkennedy
    Dec 17, 2014 at 0:46

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