Style Guide

Updated June 26, 2023

Table of contents

JSMCAH follows the American Medical Association's AMA Manual of Style.  Important elements are highlighted below.



  • Proper English grammar should be used. US spelling is encouraged, but not required, as long as spellings are consistent within the article.
  • Avoid gender-biased pronouns (s/he) unless referring to a specific person; use one or they instead.
  • In referring to animals, please use they/them/their and not it/its. We recommend the term "animal" instead of "pet" because "pet" does not always apply.


  • Use the Oxford comma (or serial comma) before the conjunction that precedes the last term in a series to prevent ambiguity in a series of 3 or more terms (eg, the technician provided the cat with food, water, and hiding opportunities).
  • Hyphenate a compound in which a number is the first element and modifies a noun that follows (eg, 7-fold increase).
  • Hyphenate words where appropriate to avoid ambiguity (eg, 'small-bowel constriction' is clear, whereas 'small bowel constriction' has two potential interpretations).


  • Collective nouns denote a unit or defined group. When they are doing something collectively, the verb should be singular (eg, the staff perform surgery every Thursday; five milliliters was injected).
  • Parenthetical plurals: if you add an s or es to express the possibility of a plural, the verb should be singular (eg, The mechanism(s) of this disease process is still unclear).
  • Plurals for Latin or Greek words should follow the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary or Stedman's medical dictionary. The Second Edition of Stedman's is freely available.
  • Plural abbreviations, symbols, numbers, letters and years are made by adding a lowercase s with no apostrophe. (eg, RBCs, 1940s).



  • First word of a quotation if it is a full sentence.
  • Major words in titles, subtitles, headings:
    • Do not capitalize coordinating conjunctions, articles, and pronouns unless they are the first word (eg, for, to, a).
    • Do capitalize two-letter verbs such as go, am, is, be, do.
  • Names of software programs, websites, trademarks, proprietary names of drugs, and equipment.
  • Formal name of the genus when used as singular, but not generic designations or derived adjectives (eg, Streptococcus, streptococci, streptococcal).
  • The expanded words that make up an abbreviation or acronym, unless it is a proper noun or in a title (eg, Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Non-English Words, Phrases, and Accent Marks

  • Accent marks should be retained and included in the manuscript for non-English words. This is especially true for proper names. Accent marks can be found here.


  • Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms should be used sparingly.
  • The expanded form of any abbreviation used is given in lower case at the first usage within the article or abstract, with the shortened form in parentheses.
    • Eg, 'Delays in recognizing problems and providing services negatively impact animal welfare and prolong the length of stay (LOS) for animals in shelters.'
    • If abbreviations are used in a table, spell out to define terms in the legend.
    • Abbreviations that are already defined may be used to begin sentences.
  • In general, authors should only use accepted acronyms or abbreviations. Good sources for these are:
  • Units of measure:
    • As this journal has an international audience, we recommend using both imperial and metric units. If only one unit is used, metric is preferred; consistency throughout the article is required.
    • In titles and when starting sentences, units should be spelled out.
    • Avoid the use of QID, SID, BID, etc. Rather use "once every x hours" or "twice daily". The abbreviation q Xt (eg, q 12h) for every 12 hours may be used.
    • Put a space between number and unit (eg, 5 mg/kg).
    • When in doubt, spell out expanded form at the first use of less common measures.


  • For preferred usage of animal sheltering terms, refer to the following glossaries:
  • Consistency is preferred over specific global styles. Professional, unbiased, respectful language is expected.
  • Clear concise writing is greatly appreciated. Jargon should be used only where necessary and defined when used.
  • Drugs: include Brand Name (capitalized) and generic or non-proprietary name of drugs, manufacturer in parenthesis, and dosing information when relevant, at first mention in the abstract or text. The generic name should be used subsequently.
    • Eg, An FDA-approved 10 mg/ml oral itraconazole solution (Itrafungol, Virbac), was administered at 5 mg/kg once daily for each cat during the first, third, and fifth weeks in the study. Itraconazole was continued if….
  • Use of Greek letters is preferred over spelling out the letter, such as 'beta' in ꞵ-lactam antibiotics.

Organisms and pathogens

  • Use biological nomenclature according to BioCode, and common name where relevant. It is the author's choice to use the common name or the scientific name throughout. The explanatory term should be in parentheses or set apart.
    • Eg, Evidence for a Neurocognitive Overlap with Physical Pain and Welfare Implications for Social Animals with Special Attention to the Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris).
    • Resource:CDC Scientific Nomenclature
  • For organisms other than viruses, genus name is capitalized, while species name is not (see above); these are both italicized. Taxa above genus should not be italicized for non-viruses.
  • Virus taxonomy includes formal species name (often with numbers or letters), genus name, and family names, along with formal abbreviations and disease or syndrome name.
    • Family, class, and formal species and genus names of viruses are usually italicized and capitalized. Internal consistency is more important to the editors of this journal.
    • For example, feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) or Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) are both acceptable; Herpesviridae and feline rhinotracheitis are correct.
  • Do not capitalize the names of animal breeds, except when names include proper nouns (place, person). In that case, capitalize the proper noun but not the generic term (like retriever or terrier) eg, Gordon setter, pit bull terrier.
  • Avoid eponymous (name-based) disease terms where possible. For example, Addison's disease and Cushing's disease should be referred to as hypoadrenocorticism and hyperadrenocorticism, respectively.


  • Use numerals to express numbers in most circumstances (eg, 5, not five) and always if the number is followed by a precise unit of measurement (eg, 5 mg). Common exceptions include:
    • Numbers that begin a sentence, title, subtitle or heading (however, it may be better to reword the sentence so that it does not begin with a number).
    • Common fractions (eg, Half of the respondents...).
    • Ordinal numbers used to express rank (eg, the third patient).
    • The word 'one' when used as a pronoun or in other uses in running text.
  • It is the author's choice to separate numbers with place values beyond 3 digits with a space or a comma (e.g., 10 000 or 10,000). The use of a comma or space in 4-digit numbers is optional (eg, 4000, 4 000 or 4,000). Consistency throughout the document is required.
  • When 2 numbers appear consecutively in a sentence, either reword the sentence or spell out one of the numbers for clarity (eg, 'in the cohort of 1500 individuals, 690 were 'men' is clearer than 'in the cohort of 1500, 690 were men').
  • Reported proportions and/or percentages should be accompanied by the actual numerator and denominator (eg, 125/222; 56%).
  • Decimal places should be reported to no more than the level of precision of the instrument/data type and should take clinical relevance into account. Resource: further guidance on decimal use.


  • Reporting checklists are strongly encouraged.
  • A statement providing the power of the study (calculated as part of the study design and used to determine the sample size) should be included where available. This is not necessary if a convenience sample was used.
  • Mathematical composition: Simple formulas can remain within the text of the manuscript. Long or complicated formulas should be set off and centered on a separate line.
  • Losses to or unavailability for observation or follow-up should be reported, as should any outliers removed from analyses.
  • P values should be written with a capital P in italics. Use exact P values, with up to 3 digits to the right of the decimal, and no zero to the left of the decimal. For those less than .001, a "less than" should be used rather than an "equals" sign (eg, P < .001).
  • Point estimates and confidence intervals (CI) should be reported in addition to P values, whenever possible. For example: 1.2% (95% CI, 0.8%-1.6%; P = .13). If there are negative numbers in the CI, substitute 'to' for '-'. For example: (99% CI -0.1% to 0.5%).
  • For multivariable models, all variables included in final models should be reported, as should model diagnostics and overall fit of the model.
  • Ideally, authors should list the assumptions underlying the use of statistical tests and how those assumptions were met.
  • Results should not be displayed only in a figure. Numerical results should be presented in either the text or a table. For large data sets, tables are preferred.
  • Avoid sentences that contain many numbers. Rather use a table or figure.
  • Include a space before and after mathematical symbols (eg, 'a = b' not 'a=b'), unless the symbol is used as an adjective (eg, '-2' not '- 2').


JSMCAH uses the American Medical Association (AMA) Reference Style for citations and references. We strongly suggest using reference management software such as Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote, etc, to format references in AMA style

  • Please ensure that the reference type (i.e. journal article, book chapter, etc) is correctly attributed, and that all the relevant fields are included.
  • If you need assistance generating citations, consider these free websites (hint - best if you have the DOI available!):
  • Minimal acceptable information varies by reference type; enough information must be provided to easily identify and retrieve the material.
  • References are numbered; superscript numbers indicate references in the text.
  • Authors and/or publishers are listed by last name, followed by initials without periods; commas are used between authors. There is a period at the end of the list of authors. Include all authors up to 6; if more than 6, list the first 3 and use the abbreviation et al (see examples below).
  • Article titles retain the spelling and style used in the original. This includes foreign language titles. Article and chapter titles are not italicized, but journal, book, website, and report titles are.
  • Names of journals are abbreviated according to the listing in the National Center for Biotechnology Information NLM Catalog database ( For journals not cited in PubMed, use expanded names.
  • Issue and volume numbers: use Arabic numbers (0-9). For journals without issue or volume numbers, use the issue date.
  • Government reports should include as much information as possible. Agency issuing the report should be written out in full except for abbreviation of Department (Dept); date must be included.
  • Online resources (including ebooks) require the website URL and an "accessed" date in Month DD, YYYY format. Please double-check all URLs before article submission.
  • Note: it is no longer recommended to include the city of publication in a book reference.

Citing Formal References, Informal ('Gray') Literature and Other Information

The distinction between literature types in this journal hinges on the credibility and trustworthiness of the information, and its stability (how likely it is that the reference can be retrieved in the future).

  • Formal references:
  • Cited numerically in the text and detailed in the reference section.
  • Examples:
    • Peer reviewed literature in scientific journals
    • Consensus statements, clinical guidelines
    • Industry surveys and research
    • Reports and white papers from professional organizations
    • Position statements by professional organizations
    • Drug label information
  • Informal ("Gray") Literature
  • Cited alphabetically in the text using superscripts, and detailed in a footnote.
  • Examples:
    • Media reports, social media, blogs
    • Informal surveys
  • Names of Drugs, Software, Apps, and Equipment
  • Describe, including brand and version and year of manufacture (as relevant) within text. These should be described in text, not in a footnote or endnote.
    • Example:Excel (Microsoft Corporation, version 16, 2018); moxidectin/imidacloprid (Advantage Multi, Bayer).
Examples of citation formats

Author FM, Authortwo FM. Title of Publication or Article with Relevant Terms Capitalized (or not) as Published. J Abbrv. Year;Volume:p-pp. doi:XX.XXX/etc

Journal Article
  • McMillan FD. The Psychobiology of Social Pain: Evidence for a Neurocognitive Overlap with Physical Pain and Welfare Implications for Social Animals with Special Attention to the Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris). Physiol Behav. 2016;167:154-171. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.09.013
  • McCobb E, Dowling-Guyer S, Pailler S, Intarapanich NP, Rozanski EA. Surgery in a veterinary outpatient community medicine setting has a good outcome for dogs with pyometra. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022;260(S2):S36-S41. doi:10.2460/javma.21.06.0320
Book Section
  • Newbury S, Hurley K. Population Management. In: Miller L, Zawistowski S, eds. Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff. 2nd ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2013:93-113.
  • Yin S. Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats. Cattledog Publishing; 2009.
Government/Agency Report
  • Gourkow N. Factors Affecting the Welfare and Adoption Rate of Cats in an Animal Shelter. Master's Thesis, University of Calgary, 2001.
Online Resource


All Tables and Figures

  • P values should be presented as described.
  • Original tables and figures are preferred. When using previously published material, ensure that you have the appropriate permissions to reproduce the material (unchanged or altered) in print, online and in all licensed versions.
  • Previously published tables and figures, including those that have been adapted, should include the source (or citation of the source) in the legend.
  • Given the variability of placement in the published manuscript, avoid referring to the placement of figures and tables in the text (eg, "the table below" or "the figure on this page").
  • Alt-text is used by screen readers and briefly describes visual components like photographs and figures. Authors are encouraged to submit suggested text for internal use, as supplementary material. For more information on writing alt-text, see:


  • Title = Table #. The title should be placed above the table and be concise, yet describe the table without relying on the text for explanation. Capitalize major words in the title with no end punctuation (See Capitalization).
  • Tables should not span more than a page vertically or horizontally. If necessary to include and unable to split into multiple smaller tables, then place the oversized table in supplemental materials.
  • Totals and percentages in a table should be presented as they are in the text. Any discrepancies (eg, due to rounding) should be explained as a footnote in the table legend.
  • Table footnotes can be used to provide information too cumbersome to include in the table, including spelling out abbreviations and acronyms (eg, Abbreviations: M, mostly; R, rarely). When needed, superscript lowercase letters are preferred to symbols or numbers.
  • Footnotes should be listed at the bottom of the table, each on its own line. They can be phrases or sentences and should end with a period (eg, a P = .01.).
  • When a footnote letter and a reference number follow data in a table, set the reference number first (eg …shelters1,b).
  • Tables should ideally be accessible to screen readers.


  • Title = Figure #. The title should be placed above the figure and be concise, yet describe the table without relying on the text for explanation. Capitalize major words in the title with no end punctuation. (See Capitalization)
  • In the title, avoid terms like "photograph of", "drawing of", etc, unless it is not obvious and is important (eg, Fluorescein angiogram showing widespread…).
  • Avoid pie charts, with few exceptions, as a table or a bar graph can provide a better direct comparison of values.
  • Captions or legends, when used, should be written in sentence format and printed below the figure. Ideally less than 40 words to describe important information about the figure that is not captured in the title. Footnotes may follow the text in the caption or legend using the same guidance as for Tables.