Style Manual and Word Usage Guide

This style manual and word-usage guide is designed to provide guidance to editors, proofreaders, and graphic-arts and automated-cartography personnel, authors, and word-processors. Using a style manual ensures quality, clarity, and consistency in our publications. Other style manuals recommended to supplement this are the USGS Suggestions to Authors, the Government Printing Office Style Manual, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, and The Chicago Manual of Style.

The Survey style is preferable for in-house publications; however, it is flexible and an author's preferences will be considered so long as accepted grammatical rules are followed and consistency is maintained. If you have any questions concerning style, grammar, or word usage, feel free to contact the editor.



1. Leave no space after one-letter abbreviations, except for author's names:

  • e.g.
  • n.sp.
  • Ph.D.
  • nov. sp.
  • W. A. Black
  • U.S.

2. Spell out all state names in text and references; spell out United States if used as a noun; you may abbreviate it when it is used as an adjective:

  • The United States relies on the Middle East for most of its oil.
  • Middle East and U.S. oil production fell in 1991.

3. Note that some abbreviations are acceptable in maps and charts only; some abbreviations have periods; others do not. In general, if an abbreviation might be confused with a word, a period is used. See the list of commonly used abbreviations (p. 32) or USGS Suggestions to Authors, p. 109-116, for guidance.

4. Always spell out an abbreviation of a term or phrase the first time it is used. Use the abbreviation for all instances of the term subsequently.

  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) publishes many journals.
  • Subscriptions can be ordered by contacting the ACS.

5. Articles (a, an, the) are used with abbreviations unless the abbreviation is normally pronounced as a word:

  • The EPA has issued new regulations. OSHA has also released its new regulations.

6. In general, abbreviations of standard units do not have to be defined unless they are created units or nonstandard. Abbreviations should be the accepted SI units (except s for seconds; the KGS uses sec).

7. Spell out compass directions in text; abbreviate in township and range descriptions.

  • The outcrop is located in the northwest corner of sec. 4.
  • The outcrop is located in NW sec. 4, T. 22 S., R. 12 E.

Aquifer names (See USGS Suggestions to Authors, p. 76)

1. The terms "aquifer," "aquifer system," "zone," and "confining unit" are not capitalized:

  • Ogallala aquifer

2. Terms such as "sand and gravel aquifer" and "limestone aquifer" are not capitalized or hyphenated.

3. Adjective modifiers, except parts of formal geologic names, are not capitalized:

  • Mississippi River alluvial aquifer

4. Relative-position terms (upper, middle, lower) are not capitalized. They may be capitalized, however, if they represent parts of a regional aquifer system that are separated by a major confining unit:

  • upper Ogallala aquifer
  • Upper Floridan aquifer system, Lower Floridan aquifer system

5. Quotation marks are used only when the aquifer name is a misnomer: "500-ft" sand.

6. Hydrologic and geologic names should be clearly distinguished:

  • Wells completed in Madison Limestone (not Madison wells)
  • Water from the Madison aquifer (not Madison water)

7. Hierarchy of terms for largest (regional) to smallest (local) water-yielding units: aquifer system, aquifer, zone. Units that bound the aquifer are called confining units (not confining beds).

8. Aquifer names should be derived from one of the following sources: rock-stratigraphic terms (e.g., Sparta aquifer), lithology (e.g., limestone aquifer), geographic features (e.g., High Plains aquifer).

9. Aquifer names should not be derived from the following sources: time-stratigraphic terms (e.g., Cretaceous aquifer), relative position (e.g., upper carbonate aquifer), alphanumeric designations for model layers or acronyms (e.g., A1 aquifer layer), depositional environment (glacial aquifer), depth of occurrence ("500-ft" sand), hydrologic condition (e.g., water-table aquifer).


1. In general, capitalize geographic terms and use lowercase for geologic terms:

  • Flint Hills
  • Hugoton embayment

2. Capitalize the words "state," "federal," and "county" only when used with proper names:

  • Douglas County, the county
  • Douglas and Jefferson counties (note lowercase when plural)
  • Kansas State line, the state line
  • U.S. Federal Reserve
  • federal government, state government

3. Capitalize "valley" as part of a proper name except when used with a river name:

  • Smoky Hill River valley
  • Smoky Hill Valley

4. Capitalize officially recognized stratigraphic units. USGS Bull. 1535, listing stratigraphic-unit names for all the United States, is available in the library or in the editor's office for use.

5. Lowercase is preferable even when used with a proper name for the following terms, but this can be left to the discretion of the author so long as consistency is maintained:

  • anticline
  • arch
  • area
  • basalt flow
  • basin
  • batholith
  • caldera
  • cauldron
  • claim
  • coal bed
  • coal field
  • coal seam
  • cone
  • cyclothem
  • deposit
  • dome
  • embayment
  • escarpment
  • facies
  • fault
  • fault zone
  • homocline
  • mill
  • mine
  • mining district
  • monocline
  • oil field
  • pluton
  • principal meridian
  • prospect
  • quadrangle
  • region
  • rift
  • sag
  • syncline
  • uplift
  • well
  • zone

6. Capitalize geologic-time divisions according to the USGS Suggestions to Authors, 7th edition, p. 59.

Chemistry (See USGS Suggestions to Authors, 7th Edition, p. 91, and The McGraw-Hill Style Manual)

1. Chemical names, rather than the symbols, are generally used except in long lists:

  • Analysis showed the presence of magnesium and calcium.
  • Analysis showed the presence of Mg, Sb, Rb, Pt, Ag, and Au.

2. Spell out names of elements or compounds unless the terms are complex (note use of hyphens):

  • sodium chloride solution
  • Ca-Mg-SO3-NO3 solution
3. Use symbols instead of the spelled out chemical name when several terms are used in close proximity:
  • Ca+ and Mg+ ions combine with CO3- and SO4-, respectively.

4. Place the mass number of an isotope to the left (and as a superscript) to the element:

  • 14C
  • 85Rb (but in ratios, the mass number can go on the right: Rb85/Rb87)

In publications written for a nonprofessional audience, the mass number still appears on the left. In such publications, the following usages are acceptable:

  • carbon 14; C-14
  • uranium 238; U-238

5. Use a numeral followed by the plus or minus sign for valences:

  • Fe2+
  • Fe3+
  • N3-
  • Cl-

In text discussions, the order of number and sign are reversed (e.g., a charge of +2; a -1 charge).

6. Abbreviations for phase states are set in lowercase italic and are placed in parentheses:

  • aq--aqueous
  • s--solid
  • g--gas
  • l--liquid
  • c--macrocrystalline
  • NiS(s) + O2(g) --> NiO(s) + SO2(g)

7. Units of chemical concentration are italicized: molar (M), molal (m), normal (N).

8. Oxidation numbers are set as roman numerals in parentheses immediately after the name or symbol of the element:

  • iron(II) chloride
  • Cu(III)

Compounding and Spelling

1. Words always used as two words; these words are hyphenated when used as unit modifiers except for -ly words which are never hyphenated (ash-flow tuff, poorly sorted unit):

  • air fall
  • ash flow
  • cliff former
  • coal bed
  • coal field
  • cross section (always two words)
  • dip slip
  • drill hole
  • field work
  • ground water (noun)
  • open pit (noun)
  • plane table (noun)
  • poorly sorted
  • red beds
  • road beds
  • sea floor
  • slope former
  • spring water
  • strip mine
  • strip mining
  • surface water (noun)
  • turn out (verb)
  • water table
  • web site
  • year end

2. Words always used as one word:

  • airview
  • backslope
  • bandwidth
  • beachrock
  • bedrock
  • borehole
  • crossbed (all forms)
  • crosscut (all forms)
  • damsite
  • downdip (verb)
  • downgradient
  • downhole
  • downslope
  • downstream
  • drawdown
  • dumbbell
  • floodplain
  • footslope
  • freshwater
  • hillslope
  • landform
  • metaquartzite (rock type)
  • midcontinent
  • mudflow
  • nearshore
  • orebody
  • roadcut
  • rockcut
  • saltwater
  • seawater
  • shoreface
  • shoreline
  • sideslope
  • sinkhole
  • standstill
  • strandline
  • streambank
  • streamflow
  • toeslope
  • turnout (noun)
  • twofold, etc.
  • undip (verb)
  • upgradient
  • upsection
  • upslope
  • watershed
  • windblown

3. Words always used with hyphen:

  • cross-lamination
  • meta-quartz (mineral)
  • cross-stratification
  • post-tectonic

4. Preferred Survey spellings:

  • anisotropy, anisotropic
  • data base
  • email
  • isotropy, isotropic
  • limy
  • minable
  • overlie
  • shaly
  • sizable
  • totaled
  • traveled
  • underlie
  • usable
  • volcanoes

5. See the Government Printing Office Style Manual (1973), p. 81-130, for words not listed. AGI's Glossary of Geology also is helpful.

Computer Languages, Names, Programs, Subroutines, etc. (after McGraw-Hill Style Manual, 1983, p. 126-129)

1. Names of computer languages that can be read as words are set with an initial capital and lowercase letters:

  • Fortran
  • Basic
  • Algol
  • Cobol

2. Names of computer languages that cannot be read as words are capitalized. If the name is long, consider using small caps to improve readability and to save space:

  • APL
  • PL/1
  • RPG

3. Names of computers, if pronounceable, are set with initial cap and lowercase letters; otherwise, they are set in all caps (or small caps):

  • Edvac
  • Univac
  • Xerox
  • Sigma
  • Intel 4004
  • XGP
4. Names of computer programs, subprograms, routines, algorithms, and statements are usually set in all caps or in small caps:
  • algorithm ENTER
  • PRINT statement
  • EDIT facility
5. Instructions to the computer are set in cap and lowercase:
  • Save As
  • Add to Menu
  • Store in Memory
  • Write

Geologic Time (see USGS Suggestions to Authors, 7th Edtion, p. 58-63)

1. A time scale showing the major divisions of geologic time, the symbols used on geologic maps, and the age estimates of their boundaries is found on page 59 of the USGS Suggestions to Authors (7th edition). Other time scales (e.g., SEPM, 1995; Harland et al., 1989; DNAG; IUGS) may, however, be used. Authors should specify what scheme is being followed.

2. The name Precambrian is informal and without specific stratigraphic rank.

3. Capitalize such modifiers as lower, middle, and upper only when they are formally recognized division of geologic time. Informal divisions should be lowercased:

  • Lower Cretaceous
  • middle Precambrian
  • early Mesozoic

4. Distinguish carefully between terms of time (geochronologic, geochronometric) and position (chronostratigraphic), especially in discussions of layered rock.

  • the Early Cambrian trilobites
  • the specimen is from the Lower Cambrian shales of . . .


1. Use m.y. and k.y. (million years and thousand years, respectively) for durations and as a unit:

  • The average period of the precession index is 20 k.y.
  • The main obliquity term is 23 k.y.

2. Use Ma and ka (million years ago and thousand years ago, respectively) for dates before the present time:

  • The values of the of the orbital peaks are those predicted for 200 Ma.
  • The main obliquity term was 47 k.y. at 200 Ma.


1. Do not italicize the terms "log," "ln," "sin," "cos," "tan," etc. in mathematical expressions or in text.

2. Do italicize all other mathematical (and statistical) symbols in text and in displayed material except for vectors and tensors (which are set in boldface and roman).

3. For paleontological terms, italicize genus and species names, not family or order:

  • . . . in the family Prosopidae, the species Prosopon tuberosum . . .

4. Italicize the name of a book or journal in text but not in reference list.

5. Do not italicize common foreign terms, such as en echelon and in situ.

Mathematical Expressions

1. Number all displayed equations in text, even if they aren't referred to in the text.

2. Refer to equations by number: Eq. (1). Use "inequality" or "expression" or some other identifier for math that is not an equality.

3. Punctuate all equations as you would a sentence:

    If the inequality
                x > y             (1)
    holds, then
                a = b.           (2)

4. Place equation numbers flush right.

5. If several expressions are related, they may be numbered with a number and a letter:

     x > y,              (1a)
     y > z,              (1b)
     x > z.              (1c)

6. Encourage authors to identify special symbols used in math expressions, so that they can be properly formatted when the time comes.

7. Italicize all mathematical symbols in the Roman alphabet, unless (1) they represent vectors or tensors (which are set in bold roman), (2) they are abbreviations (or the whole word) for some nonmathematical identifier (e.g., "tot" for "total"), (3) they are units of measure, or (4) they are mathematical functions (e.g., log, ln, sin, lim, exp).

8. Do not use "loge" for "ln". Do not use "log10" for "log".

9. In text and displayed equations, it is permissible to use "exp" in place of e. Complicated expressions are best set in the "exp" form:

  • exp(xyz2 - 4sf)
  • exyz or exp(xyz)


1. In general, follow the USGS Suggestions to Authors, 7th Edtion, p. 117-18.

2. For a measurement, use a numeral:

  • 1 ft
  • 12 ft
  • 2 mi
  • 10 km

On other items, use a numeral for 10 or above; write out below 10:

  • 12 books
  • three books

Use numerals for time periods:

  • 3 b.y.
  • 3 days
  • 10 yr
  • 2 hr
  • 10:00 a.m.

3. For strike and dip, use:

  • dips 10° westward
  • 65°-70° N
  • strike N 30° E

4. Dates may read October 20, 1986, or 20 October 1986 so long as consistency is maintained (KGS preferred style is October 20, 1986). Apostrophes may be used in dates (KGS style uses apostrophe): 1980's.

For ranges of dates, use all four digits if the decade changes; otherwise, just use the last two digits in the end date: 1890-1927, 1934-37.

5. In intervals, an en dash (option-hyphen on Mac) should be used, except when following the word "from" (then "to" is used):

  • 10-20 ft thick
  • from 10 to 20 ft thick
6. Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence:
  • Eighty percent of the samples were destroyed.
9. When a number less than 100 precedes a unit modifier, spell it out:
  • four 2-in. pipes
  • 400 2-in. pipes

8. Always put a zero in front of a decimal point: 0.25, not .25

9. Spell out fractions that stand alone:

  • The dike was one-third the width of the outcrop.

10. When a fraction is used with a whole number or in a unit modifier, use figures:

  • 1 1/2 mile
  • 3.5 km
  • 1/2-in. pipe
  • 0.5-in. spacing

11. Pay attention to significant figures in giving measurements and in rounding off numbers. The USGS Suggestions to Authors (p. 119-121) has a good explanation of the use of significant figures. Significant figures are particularly important in converting metric units to English units and vice versa.

12. Avoid such expressions as "from 14 ft thick up to at least 30 ft thick" (if 30 ft is the upper limit, then there is no need for "at least"; if 30 ft is not the upper limit, as indicated by the "at least," then state the true upper limit); "approximately 13.41 in." (the significant figures after the decimal indicate that this is not an approximation).

13. Numbers used as nouns are written as figures:

  • the number 3.14159
  • a factor of 4
  • approaches 0

14. Use figures in other designations:

  • item 3 in the list
  • method 2
  • type 3

15. In tables, align columns of numbers on the decimal point.

16. Numbers in related expressions should all be treated in the same style regardless of whether or not each number is less than 10:

  • Enrollment records showed 9 geology students, 15 geophysics students, and 11 astronomy students in the School of Geology.

Unconnected numerical expressions follow the figure vs. spelled-out rule applicable for that number:

  • The number of rocks in the collection grew from 430 to 690 in five years.



1. Use periods for points of ellipsis (or option-semicolon on a Mac).

2. Use periods at end of captions and, obviously, at the end of a sentence.

3. Do not use periods at end of titles or at end of headings.

4. Check abbreviations list to see when to use periods. In general, periods are not used with units of measure.

5. Use a period after the number in vertical lists (see next rule).

6. In lists, use a period at the end of each item if each item is a complete sentence. Do not use a period if the items in the list are phrases or incomplete sentences. Use a period after each item in a list if the items are mixed (sentence and nonsentence).

  • We will do the following in this laboratory:
    1. Each lab group will collect specimens.
    2. Each group will prepare its own thin sections.
    3. One group will prepare powdered specimens for neutron activation analysis.
  • The following accessory minerals were observed in thin section:
    1. sphene
    2. zircon
    3. magnetite
  • There are three main groups of rocks:
    1. Igneous: Not exposed in Kansas.
    2. Sedimentary: Widely exposed in Kansas. These rocks can be collected at many road cuts.
    3. Metamorphic: Not exposed in Kansas.

7. Periods are placed inside quotation marks. They are placed inside or outside parentheses and brackets depending on meaning.

  • Smith used the term "meta-quartz."
  • The lab technician insisted on reanalyzing the data. (The professor had encountered this intransigence before.)
  • He reanalyzed the data (although the professor had asked him not to).


1. Use comma before last item in a series: a, b, and c.

2. Use comma in numbers of four or more digits: 1,432.

3. Use commas in dates as follows:

  • September 10, 1981, to April 3, 1982, was the first . . .
  • April 1975 (no comma between April and 1975)

4. Place commas inside quotation marks.

5. Do not use a comma before a parenthesis or bracket.

6. Use a comma to separate two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.

  • Smith collected igneous rocks, and Jones collected metamorphic ones.

If a dependent clause precedes the second independent clause, no comma is needed after the conjunction.

  • The situation is perilous, but if we are prepared to act promptly, there is still one change of escape.

7. Do not use a comma in sentences with a compound predicate (two or more verbs having the same subject):

  • Smith collected the rocks and analyzed them at the museum.

8. A dependent clause that precedes the main clause should be set off by a comma:

  • If you collect the rocks, I will analyze them.

9. An introductory participial phrase is set off by a comma:

  • By comparing the samples, we will determine any trends in composition.

10. Use a comma after such expression as "that is," "for example," "i.e.," and "e.g."

11. Commas are used between two or more adjectives of equal rank that precede the word they modify (if adjectives are parallel, you will be able to insert "and" between them and reverse the order with no change in meaning):

  • hard, impermeable subsoil
  • red, fine-grained, subrounded sand particles
  • Strong lateral ground motion

Quotation Marks

1. Use quotation marks only for directly quoted material:

  • The term he used was "red beds" (Smith, 1974, p. 37).
  • Aquifers are defined as "rock or sediment formations that have a sufficiently large number of interconnected pores to contain usable amounts of extractable water" (Buddemeier et al., 1991, p. 1).

2. Periods and commas are inside the quotation marks; question marks and exclamation points are inside or outside depending on meaning, and colons and semicolons are outside.

3. If you are using quotation marks around a stratigraphic name to indicate abandonment of the name or a misapplication, explain your usage in the text so that readers will not be confused.

4. Use quotation marks to indicate words or phrases used as terms:

  • The term "silt" refers to unconsolidated rock particles finer than sand and coarser than clay.

5. Do not use quotation marks after "so-called":

  • The so-called infraction of rules was just a misunderstanding.

6. Do not use quotation marks to indicate that you know that a particular word isn't quite right. Find the appropriate word and use it.


1. Use a colon after an introductory statement to convey that something is to follow:

  • We will cover the following subjects: petrology and petrography.

2. Use a colon to separate two independent clauses, the second of which amplifies the first (a semicolon or a dash could serve the same purpose):

  • Contact relations indicate that the granodiorite was the last intrusive phase: it cuts the diorite and tonalite.

3. Use a colon to introduce long quotations, especially block quotations (those set off from the regular text as a separate paragraph).


1. Use a semicolon to separate the parts of a compound sentence when a conjunction is not used:

  • Smith collected the rocks in the spring; he did not analyze them until the following winter.

2. Use a semicolon to separate items in a series if the items are long or complex or have internal punctuation:

  • The rocks included a sandstone, which was fine-grained and stained with iron; a basalt, which was partially altered by hydrothermal solutions; and a slate, which was slickensided.

Question Marks

1. Use a question mark at the end of an interrogative.

  • Who analyzed the data?

2. Do not use a question mark with an indirect question.

  • She wondered why the data had been reanalyzed.

3. Question marks go inside or outside quotation marks, parentheses, and brackets depending on the meaning.

  • She asked, "Who reanalyzed the data?"
  • Why was the professor angry when she said, "I'm here to find out who reanalyzed the data"?
  • The meeting is delayed until the professor returns from vacation (March 18?).

4. Question marks are used to indicate uncertainty in stratigraphic or paleontologic designations:

  • The Hepler sandstone (?) crops out over there.
  • Spirifer ? grimesi Hall
  • ?Spirifer grimesi Hall


1. Advise authors to submit manuscript without end-of-line hyphenation--that is, with ragged right margins.

2. Hyphens in unit modifiers are used as described below.

  • Use hyphens in adjectives modifying nouns, when the unit modifier precedes the noun:
    • a fine-grained sandstone
    • heat-flow data
    • a poorly sorted collection (-ly adverb makes hyphen unnecessary) very fine grained sandstone (three-word modifiers beginning with two adverbs do not take a hyphen). However, generally in text, the use of "very" is discouraged because of its subjective nature.
    • sandstone is fine grained (no hyphen necessary for predicate adjective, or in general when adjective follows verb)
  • Description of stratigraphic sections:
    • limestone, light-olive-gray, medium-crystalline (adjectives all read back to noun)
    • very fine to fine-grained sandstone
    • fine- to medium-grained sandstone
  • Miscellaneous unit-modifier examples:
    • pale-red outcrops
    • reddish to brownish mudstone
    • pale-red-grayish rock
    • east-central Kansas
    • very dark gray shale
    • 3-ft-thick sequence
    • 25-ft (7.6-m)-thick deposit
  • Foreign phrases used as unit modifiers are not hyphenated:
    • in situ mining
    • en echelon faults
  • Do not use a hyphen if the words of the unit modifier commonly go together:
    • rare earth elements
    • solid waste disposal

3. Use a hyphen (not an en dash) to join proper names if both names are one word:

  • Cambrian-Ordovician

4. Do not use a hyphen between a prefix or a suffix and the word it modifies:

  • nonmetric
  • unexposed
  • tenfold
  • but quasi-official, non-quartz-bearing rock

5. Insert a hyphen between a prefix or a suffix and the word it modifies if the consonant would be tripled or the vowel would be doubled:

  • bell-like
  • electro-optic

6. Use a hyphen to prevent mispronunciation or to avoid ambiguity:

  • un-ionized (as distinguished from unionized)
  • re-present (as distinguished from represent)
7. Do not use a hyphen in chemical compounds:
  • carbon dioxide
  • sulfuric acid

8. Use hyphens to separate numbers that are not inclusive ranges, such as phone numbers and zip codes:

  • (404) 521-7878
  • 66045-1291

En dashes

1. An en dash is half the length of an em dash and longer than a hyphen (on a Mac, type option-hyphen to get an en dash). It is used in ranges of time, dates, or numbers:

  • 1968–82
  • p. 83–47
  • 13 May 1934–9 June 1940

2. Use the en dash to join proper names when one (or both) of them is more than one word:

  • Topeka–Kansas City corridor

3. Use an en dash in place of a hyphen with prefixes to compound adjectives:

  • post–World War II period

4. Use an en dash instead of a hyphen between two hyphenated compound adjectives:

  • quasi-public–quasi-judicial body

Em dashes

1. An em dash is the standard dash in punctuation (on a Mac, type shift-option-hyphen to get the em dash). It is used to punctuate a sudden break in thought or to set off a parenthetical element:

  • The rock specimens—too numerous to list here—are stored in the museum.
  • The sedimentary rock specimens—sandstone, siltstone, and shale—are stored in the museum.

2. Use the em dash after fig. or table number and before the actual cutline or caption:

  • FIGURE 1—Location map of study area.

Slash (virgule)

1. Do not use a slash to mean "and," "or," or other words. Say what you mean so that your reader does not have to guess.

2. Use a slash to mean "per:"

  • m/sec

Reference Style

1. Authors' names are listed last name first:

  • Jones, A. S., Smith, J. D., Jr.
  • Jones, Alice S., Allen, B. D., III

2. Titles of articles and chapters are sentence style (initial cap and lowercase; proper nouns capitalized). Titles of books are caps and lowercase (main words capitalized).

3. Use "et al." or "and others" (use one style consistently) for more than 2 authors in references and in text citations.

4. All names of publishers and organizations are spelled out in full.

5. Style for schools:

  • University of California (Davis), not at Davis
  • University of Texas (Austin), not at Austin

6. Examples of in-text citations of references are listed below. Use commas to separate dates and semicolons to separate different authors.

  • (Bridwell, 1976, 1978)
  • (Smith, 1968; Jones, 1970)
  • (Wilson, 1972a, 1972b, 1977; Steeples, 1980)
  • (Watney, personal communication, 1984)
  • (Zeller, unpublished field notes, 1967)
  • (Johnson et al., 1988)

7. Citations at end of figure captions are in parentheses:

  • FIGURE 1--Geologic map of Douglas County (after McClain, 1980).

8. Use author line (________,) for subsequent references only when author (or authors) of publication is exactly the same.

What Constitutes a Complete Reference?

1. All journal references must have: (a) all authors' (or editors') names, (b) year of publication, (c) title of article, (d) title of journal, (e) volume number, issue number (if any), and (f) beginning and ending page numbers of article:

  • Boellstorff, J. D., 1973, Fission-track ages of Pearlette family ash beds--comment: Geology, v. 2, p. 21.
  • Bushue, L. J., Fehrenbacher, J. B., and Ray, B. W., 1974, Exhumed paleosols and associated modern till soils in western Illinois: Soil Science Society of America, Proceedings, v. 34, p. 665-669.

2. All book references must have: (a) all authors' (or editors') names, (b) year of publication, (c) title of book, (d) publishing organization, (e) location of publisher (city and state; or city and country if foreign), (e) number of pages in book:

  • Fenton, C. L., and Fenton, M. A., 1958, The Fossil Book: Garden City, New York, Doubleday and Company, 482 p.

3. All theses and dissertation references must have: (a) author's name, (b) year of publication or completion, (c) academic department (this is optional), (d) university name, and (e) university location (city and state; or city and country if foreign), (f) number of pages in thesis or dissertation:

  • Dubins, I. M., 1947, The petrography, geochemistry, and economic utilization of the Fort Hays chalk in Kansas: M.S. thesis, Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, 84 p.
  • [Note: state may be omitted from university location if it is part of university name.]

4. Chapters in a book must have: (a) all authors' names, (b) publication date, (c) title of chapter, (d) title of book, (e) editors of book (may be an organization), (f) publisher of book and location, (g) beginning and ending page numbers of chapter:

  • Cowie, J. W., 1974, The Cambrian of Spitzbergen and Scotland; in, Cambrian of the British Isles, Norden, and Spitzbergen, C. H. Holland, ed.: London, John Wiley and Sons, p. 123-155.

5. Conference papers. In general, avoid citing papers that were presented at a meeting unless there is no published form of the paper. The papers usually are published in a conference proceedings. Thus you should cite the conference proceedings as the reference and treat the paper as a chapter in a book. For published proceedings, do not give the title of the meeting and where and when the meeting was held as the publication material. Only use the meeting information if the paper has not been published or if the paper was a poster session.

6. See the sample references for other types of citations.

Sample References

Chapter, section, or other part of larger publication

  • Johnson, W. C., and Martin, C. W., 1987, Holocene alluvial-stratigraphic studies from Kansas and adjoining states of the east-central Plains; in, Quaternary Environments of Kansas, W. C. Johnson, ed.: Kansas Geological Survey, Guidebook Series 5, p. 109-122.


  • Asquith, G. B., Gilbert, J. L., and Smith, R. C., 1976, FORTRAN IV program for the analysis of sedimentary structures from stratigraphic sections (abstract): Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 8, no. 5, p. 563.


  • Hattin, D. E., 1982, Stratigraphy and depositional environment of Smoky Hill Chalk Member, Niobrara Chalk (Upper Cretaceous), of the type area, western Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 225, 108 p., 1 sheet.


  • Yarger, H., Robertson, R., Martin, J., Ng, K., Sooby, R., and Wentland, R., 1981, Aeromagnetic map of Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey, Map M-16, scale 1:500,000.


  • Heckel, P. H., 1975, Field guide to Stanton Formation (Upper Pennsylvanian) in southeastern Kansas: Kansas Geological Society, 31st Regional Field Conference Guidebook, p. 2-71.


  • Boellstorff, J. D., 1973, Fission-track ages of Pearlette family ash beds--comment: Geology, v. 2, p. 21.
  • Bushue, L. J., Fehrenbacher, J. B., and Ray, B. W., 1974, Exhumed paleosols and associated modern till soils in western Illinois: Soil Science Society of America, Proceedings, v. 34, p. 665-669.


  • Whittemore, D. O., 1984, Initial report on the geochemical identification of the source of salinity in ground waters in northwestern Harvey County: Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 84-6 (a report for Equus beds Groundwater Management District #2), 11 p.


  • Chang, Jih-tung, 1965, On some Lower Ordovician nautiloids from Qilianshan, northwestern China: Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, v. 13, no. 2, p. 43-362 (in Chinese, with English summary).
  • Maat, P., and Johnson, W. C., 1996, Thermoluminescence and new C-14 age estimates for late Quaternary loesses in southwestern Nebraska: Geomorphology (in press).
  • Lam, Chi-Kin, and Yarger, H. L., in press, State gravity map of Kansas; in, Geophysics in Kansas—25-yr Update, D. W. Steeples, ed.: Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 226. [use this style when publication date can't be determined].

Alphabetizing the Reference List

1. In general, alphabetize the entire reference list by the last name of the first author.

2. If there are more than two authors with the same last name, alphabetize them by their initials:

  • Jones, A. S.
  • Jones, A. W.
  • Jones, R. T.

3. All single-author entries precede multiple-author entries for that senior author.

  • Jones, A. S.
  • Jones, A. S., and Carlton, D. E.
  • Jones, A. S., Brown, W. T., and Smith, M. A.

4. Alphabetize by the second author's name if there are several references with the same senior author:

  • Jones, A. S., and Brown, N. R.
  • Jones, A. S., and Brown, W. T.
  • Jones, A. S., and Carlton, D. E.
  • Jones, A. S., Brown, W. T., and Smith, M. A.
  • Jones, A. S., Smith, M. A., and Carlton, D. E.
  • Jones, A. S., Harper, M. S., Carlton, D. E., and Smith, M. A.
  • Jones, A. S., Smith, M. A., Carlton, D. E., and Harper, M. S.

5. All three-author papers should precede all four-author papers; all four-author papers should precede all five-author papers, etc.

6. When authors are the same, list in chronological order from oldest paper to most recent paper:

  • Jones, A. S., and Brown, W. T., 1987
  • [Jones, A. S., and Brown, W. T., 1990] ________, 1990
  • [Jones, A. S., and Brown, W. T., 1991] ________, 1991

7. If there are many papers by the same authors (more than 2), in-text citations may become a problem. Consider listing the second author and the date (Jones, Smith et al., 1991; Jones, Brown et al., 1991) or creating some other system of distinguishing the references in text.

8. If there are two or more references with the same authors and dates, add a letter to the publication year. If the order of publication is not known (that is, which was published first in a given year), alphabetize by title (ignore the words "a," "an," and "the"):

  • Jones, A. S., 1990a, The igneous rocks of Kansas . . .
  • ________, 1990b, Sedimentary rocks of Kansas . . .
  • ________, 1990c, Water levels in Johnson County . . .

Note: In taxonomic papers, because of issues of priority, the correct ordering of same-year publications is important. Consult authors for help in determining correct order.


Abbreviation Term Meaning
aff. affinity related to
auct. auctorum of authors
cf. compare compare
comb. nov. combinatio nova new combination
emend. emendation; emended change in spelling of name
fam. nov. familia nova new family (only after family name)
f. sp. forma specialis special form (only after species name)
gen. nov. genus novum new genus (only after genus name)
inc. sed. incertae sedis uncertain position
m. morpha form (only after species name)
nom. cons. nomen conservandum retained name
nom. dub. nomen dubium doubtful name
nom. nov. nomen novum new name
nom. nud. nomen nudum invalid name
nom. rej. nomen rejiciendum rejected name
preocc. preoccupied preoccupied
sect. section section
s.l. sensu lato broad sense
sp.; spp. species (sing.; pl.) (only after genus name)
sp. nov. species nova new species (only after species name)
s.s. sensu stricto restricted sense
ssp.; sspp. subspecies (sing.; pl.) (only after species name)
ssp. nov. subspecies nova new subspecies (only after subspecies name)
var. varietas variety (only after species name)
var. nov. varietas nova new variety (only after variety name)

1. Formal generic and specific fossil names are in Latin and are italicized. Informal names and adjectives based on fossil names are not italicized:

  • foraminiferal, foraminifer
  • spirifer
  • bryozoan
  • mollusk, molluskan (not mollusc, molluscan)

2. The first use of a genus-species combination should be spelled out in full. Subsequent references to the same critter or to another species within that genus can appear with the genus abbreviated: Atrypa unisulcata, A. unisulcata, A. uniangulata. Be sure that each abbreviation of a genus is unique; for example, don't use "G." to mean both Goniatites and Glyphioceras in the same manuscript. Spell out the genus name in full to avoid confusion.

3. Certainty of identification of taxa (from USGS Suggestions to Authors, p. 102):

  • Spirifer grimesi Hall--Taxon definitely identified
  • Spirifer cf. S. grimesi Hall--Taxon compared with named species
  • Spirifer aff. S. grimesi Hall--Taxon has affinities with named species
  • Spirifer ? grimesi Hall--Species questionably assigned to genus
  • Spirifer grimesi Hall?--Species doubtful but assigned to correct genus
  • ?Spirifer grimesi Hall--Entire assignment doubtful

Undesirable Expressions

1. List of undesirable expressions:

  • Permo-Penn (use Permian and Pennsylvanian)
  • Cambro-Ordovician (use with Cambrian and Ordovician)
  • Mid-Cambrian (use Middle Cambrian)
  • Westwater Member (use Westwater Canyon Member)
  • hydrofer, aquiformation (use aquifer or aquifer system)
  • aquigroup (use aquifer system)
  • sulphur, sulphide, sulphate (use sulfur, sulfide, sulfate)
  • rare earths (use rare earth elements; a rare earth is an oxide of a rare earth element)

2. Do not use map symbols in text as a shorthand for formation names; spell out formations names in text.

Notes on Grammar, Spelling, Usage, and Vocabulary

1. "Author" is a noun, not a verb. A book is "written by," not "authored by."

2. Use of "comprise" and "compose":

  • "Comprise" is interchangeable with "include."
  • The whole comprises the parts.
  • The parts compose the whole.
  • "Comprised of" is never correct; "composed of" is correct
  • "Comprised in" is correct--parts are comprised in the whole.

3. Use of "that" and "which":

  • "That" is restrictive; the clause is necessary for the meaning of the sentence and cannot be set off by a comma: The field that we are visiting was drilled in 1982.
  • "Which" is nonrestrictive; the clause is not necessary for meaning of the sentence and is set off by a comma: The field, which was drilled in 1982, was never as productive as expected.

4. The word "data" is always plural and requires a plural verb; "datum" is singular.

5. Use of "from" and "to": In measurements, if you use "from," you must use "to," and not a dash.

  • from 10 to 20 ft, not from 10-20 ft

6. "Outcrop" is a noun; "crops out" is the verb form.

  • The Reagan Sandstone crops out in this county, not The Reagan outcrops in this county.
  • The Reagan outcrop can be seen over there.

7. "Approximately" is used for measurement approximations; "about" is used for time approximations (preferred usage, not absolute; vary your usage to avoid repetition). Do not use such locutions as "approximately 4.31 cm"; the use of decimal places indicates that the number is not an approximation.

8. Since, as, because:

  • "Since" refers to time; don't use it for "because."
  • Avoid using "as" whenever possible because it can be misused in too many ways; use "because" when appropriate.

9. Use "due to" only after a form of the verb "to be":

  • The bad results were due to the poor sampling distribution.

If there is no form of the verb "to be" in the clause, then use one of the following forms in place of "due to": because of, as a result of, resulting from.

10. Avoid making verbs out of adjectives or nouns:

  • "upslopes" "downdips"
  • The rock unit downdips at an acute angle. (incorrect)
11. Location-designation style:
  • SE SE NW sec. 10, T. 15 S., R. 25 W., means the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 10, township 15 south, range 25 west.
12. Highway designation:
  • US-160 (U.S. highway 160)
  • K-10 (Kansas highway 10)
  • I-35 (interstate highway 35)

13. Each table, plate, or figure (in text, abbreviate to fig. or figs.) should be referred to in the text in sequential order. That is, do not cite fig. 3 before fig. 2. By convention, we say "in" tables and figures and "on" plates, maps, and sheets.

14. "Saltwater" and "freshwater" are each one word and are used this way whether as a noun or an adjective; "ground water" and "surface water" are two-word nouns and are used with hyphens when used as unit modifiers before nouns, i.e., "ground-water management."

15. In technical writing, always use the active voice rather than the passive voice. Avoid the use of "There is . . . ." ("Stratigraphers today highly esteem the geologic studies of that researcher" is preferable to "The geologic studies of that researcher are highly esteemed by stratigraphers today.")

16. Bulletins and series publications are published in an 8 1/2 by 11 inch, two-column format (each column is 3 5/16 inches wide and 9 5/8 inches long). Thus figures and tables may be either one column wide (3 5/16 inches) or two columns wide (6 13/16 inches); tables and figures should be planned with these dimensions in mind. Figures may be designed larger and photographically reduced (optimum size is no more than 35% larger).

17. SI (International System of Units) measurement units are preferable in manuscripts, i.e., metric units. If non-SI units are used (inch, foot, etc.), then the equivalent conversion should be given. In measured sections, always give the units first in the way that they were measured and the conversion second.

18. The plural of foraminifer is foraminifers, not foraminifera. Foraminifera (capitalized) is the order and should not be used as the plural form.

19. Eustasy, not eustacy.

Formal and Informal Geologic-Formation Names: General style

1. Formal names of geologic units are capitalized:

  • Aarde Shale Member
  • Topeka Limestone

2. Informal names of geologic units are lowercase:

  • Excello shale member
  • Loveland formation

3. If all the units are formal in a group or list, then the plural remains capitalized:

  • the Foraker and Topeka Limestones
  • the Eudora and Rock Lake Shale Members
  • the Eudora Shale and Neva Limestone Members
  • Chase and Kansas City Groups

4. If only some of the units in a list or group of units are formal or if all of them are in informal, then the plural is lowercase:

  • The Topeka and Luta limestones
  • The Iatan and Idenbro limestone members
  • The Quivira and Peoria formations

5. Short forms of rock units are as follows:

  • Rock Lake Shale Member: Rock Lake Member, the Rock Lake, the member (not Rock Lake Shale; use Rock Lake shale only to mean shale within the Rock Lake Member)
  • Topeka Limestone: the Topeka

6. Avoid using "Formation" when the unit is formally named with a rock type:

  • Topeka Limestone, not Topeka Formation.

List of Abbreviations

1. Commonly used abbreviations (MC indicates usage on maps and charts only):

% percent
AAPG American Association of Petroleum Geologists
abs. abstract
ACS American Chemical Society
A.D. (note small caps)
AGI American Geological Institute
AGU American Geophysical Union
ann. annual
API American Petroleum Institute
approx. approximately
assoc. association
ASTM American Society for Testing and Materials
avg. average
B.A. Bachelor of Arts
B.C. (note small caps)
BM bench mark (MC)
BO barrels of oil
BOPD barrels of oil per day
B.P. before present (note small caps)
B.S. Bachelor of Science
bull. bulletin
ca. circa
cal calorie(s)
CDP common data point
Cgl., cgl. conglomerate (MC)
CKU Central Kansas uplift
CSR Central stable region
cu cubic
D darcy, darcies
Dol., dol. dolomite (MC)
e.g. for example
et al. and others
etc. et cetera
fig., figs. figure, figures
Fm., fm. formation (MC)
Gp., gp. group (MC)
GSA Geological Society of America
gty gravity
i.e. that is
Jr. Junior
lat. latitude (MC)
long. longitude (MC)
Ls., ls. limestone (MC)
M.A. Master of Arts
max. maximum
Mbr., mbr. member (MC)
MGA Midcontinent Geophysical Anomaly
min. minimum
Mt. Mount (MC)
Mtn. Mountain (MC)
Mts. Mountains (MC)
n.sp. new species
no., nos. number, numbers
NU Nemaha uplift
p., pp. page; also pages
P.M. (note small caps)
Qtz., qtz. quartz (MC)
quad. quadrangle (spell out in text)
R., Rgs. range, ranges
RR railroad (MC)
sec. section
Sh., sh. shale (MC)
SP spontaneous potential
sp gr specific gravity
sq square
Ss., ss. sandstone (MC)
Sts., sts. siltstone (MC)
T., Tps. township, townships
tr. trace
USGS U.S. Geological Survey (MC and tables; in text, spell out)

2. Units of Measure

A ampere
Å angstrom
acre-ft acre-feet or acre-foot
amu atomic mass unit
atm atmosphere
a.u. atomic unit
at. wt atomic weight
bar bar (unit of pressure)
bbl barrel(s)
billion ft3 also BCF
Btu British thermal units
b.y. billion years
°C degrees Centigrade; Celsius
C coulomb
cal calorie
cd candela
Ci curie
cm, cm2, cm3 centimeter, square centimeter, cubic centimeter
cp candlepower
cP centipoise
cS centistoke
cycle, c cycle (use c only in combination: c/sec)
day day (no abbreviation)
D debye
dB decibel
°, deg degree
dyn dyne
emu electromagnetic unit
erg erg
esu electrostatic unit
e.u. electron unit
eV electron volt
°F degrees Fahrenheit
F farad
fm femtometer
ft, ft2, ft3 foot, square foot, cubic foot
G gauss
g gram
gal gallon
gpm gallons per minute
H henry
ha hectare
hp horsepower
hr hour
Hz hertz
in. inch
J joule
K Kelvin (note: no degree mark with Kelvin)
ka thousands of years ago (not to be confused with k.y.)
kg kilogram
km, km2, km3 kilometer, square kilometer, cubic kilometer
k.y. thousand years (used for durations)
L liter
l liter (when prefixed, e.g., ml)
lb pound
lm lumen
lx lux
m, m2, m3 meter, square meter, cubic meter
m molal (concentration)
M molar (concentration)
Ma million years ago (not to be confused with m.y.)
MCF thousand cubic feet
mg milligram
Mgal million gallons
mgal milligal
mho reciprocal ohm (interchangeable with siemens)
mi, mi2, mi3 mile, square mile, cubic mile
min minute
mm millimeter
mm micrometer
MMCF million cubic feet
mo month
mol mole
mol % mole percent
mph miles per hour
msec millisecond(s)
m/sec meters per second
Mx maxwell
m.y. million years (used for durations)
m.y. b.p. million years before present (better usage is Ma)
N newton
N normal (concentration)
nm nanometer
nsec nanosecond
Greek Omega ohm
oz ounce
P poise
Pa pascal
pc parsec
pCi/L picocuries per liter
ppb parts per billion (preferred usage is X109)
ppm parts per million (preferred usage is X106)
psi pounds per square inch
R roentgen
rad rad (radiation dose)
rad. radian
rpm revolutions per minute
S siemens (interchangeable with mho)
S stoke
sec second
sr steradian
T tesla
ton ton
torr torr
trillion ft3 trillion cubic feet
u unit
V volt
vol % volume percent
W watt
Wb weber
week week
wt. % weight percent
yr year

Additional information may be found in the KGS Publications Policy and Guidelines