Skip to main content.Return to: U of M Home

Gold University of Minnesota M. Skip to main content. University of Minnesota.
Driven to Discover.
Style manual.
What's inside. Home : Style  

Graphic Standards & Publication Policies




Style Manual & Writing Guide Bibliography


Style Manual Home

Related Links

U of M Communications Tools

Graphic Standards

Driven to Discover Brand Guidelines

eCommunication Standards

Images Library


Scientific Terminology


  1. Italicize the genus and species designation (Latin name) of a plant or animal; capitalize the genus name but not the species name. After using the full name once, abbreviate the genus name.

    Sequoiadendron giganteum
    S. giganteum

  2. When using a subspecies name, place it after the species name and italicize it. Do not italicize other designations following genus and species or subspecies.

    Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana
    Rosa rugosa

  3. When including the name of the person(s) who proposed a specific or subspecific name, add the person’s name after the genus and species designation; do not italicize it. The name is often abbreviated. (Use of parentheses in the second example means that Walker described the species guttifer but referred it to a different genus.)

    Felix leo Scop.
    Pycnopsyche guttifer (Walker)

  4. Capitalize but do not italicize taxonomic divisions larger than genus (kingdom, phylum, class, order, and family).


  5. Do not capitalize anglicized versions of scientific names.

    primate (from the order Primata)
    sequoia (from the genus Sequoia)

  6. In general, do not capitalize the names of wild and domestic plants and animals. Capitalize only proper nouns and adjectives used with their original reference.

    English ivy
    Rocky Mountain sheep
    dutchman’s breeches

  7. Capitalize special plant and animal names, especially those that are patented or registered as trademarks; do not capitalize the generic part of the name.

    Minnesota Regent apple
    Big Boy tomato
    Peace rose

Back to Top

  1. Treat names of infectious microorganisms as you would biological terms: italicize the genus and species designation but not English derivations of the word.

    Mycobacterium tuberculosis

  2. Do not capitalize the names of diseases, syndromes, tests, and other medical terms except for proper nouns that are part of the names.

    Down’s syndrome

  3. When referring to specific vitamins, capitalize only the letter representing the vitamin.

    vitamin C (not Vitamin C)
    vitamin B-12/vitamin B12

Back to Top

  1. Do not capitalize the names of laws, theorems, or principles except for proper nouns that are part of the names.

    theory of relativity
    Kepler’s laws
    Newton’s laws of motion

  2. Do not capitalize the spelled-out names of chemical elements and compounds. When using symbols, use capital letters but no periods.

    cadmium Cd
    iron Fe
    sulfuric acid H2 SO4

  3. In scientific usage, place the mass number in a superior position to the left of the symbol.


  4. In nonscientific usage, place the mass number in a superior position to the right of the symbol, or place it on the same line with the spelled-out name of the element, or hyphenate it with the element symbol.

    carbon 14

Back to Top

  1. Capitalize the names of asteroids, planets, satellites, stars, and constellations.

    Big Dipper
    North Star

  2. Capitalize the names of unique astronomical objects, but do not capitalize generic words that form part of the name or descriptive terms used with a name.

    the Milky Way
    Andromeda galaxy
    Biela’s comet
    the rings of Saturn

  3. Do not capitalize or italicize terms applied to meteorological phenomena.

    northern lights
    aurora borealis

  4. Do not capitalize the words sun and moon.

  5. Do not capitalize the word earth unless it is used without the definite article in connection with the names of other planets.

    The earth rotates on its axis.

    Mercury is the planet closest to the sun, followed by Venus and Earth.

  6. Use the name (which can be abbreviated) and number of astronomical objects listed in well-known catalogs.

    M 31
    Ross 128
    NGC 224
    Groombridge 34

Back to Top

  1. Capitalize the names of eras, periods, and epochs, but do not capitalize the words era, period, etc.

    Pleistocene epoch
    Cenozoic era

  2. Do not capitalize modifiers such as early, middle, and late.

    early Paleocene epoch

  3. Capitalize the term Ice Age when referring to the Pleistocene glacial epoch; do not capitalize ice age as a general term.

  4. Do not capitalize the names of glacial and interglacial stages.

    fourth glacial stage

Back to Top


See section on the metric system in “Numbers” chapter.