Formatting your paper

These are general formatting guidelines across BMJ, please always refer to journal-specific instructions for authors for article type specifications. You can browse the titles on our Journals website. If you are looking to submit to The BMJ, please visit this section.

If you are unable to find the answer to your question, our editorial team will be on hand to offer assistance throughout the submission process. Contact details for the editorial team are on the journal’s Contact Us page.

You can also refer to our formatting checklist to make sure you have covered everything on submission.


Submission prefill tool

BMJ has introduced a submission prefill tool to help authors populate various fields on submission of their manuscript to ScholarOne. When authors start their submission they will have the option, when prompted, to upload their manuscript enabling the system to automatically extract and populate the following submission fields if available in the main manuscript document: Title, Abstract, Authors, Institutions, Funders. This tool typically reduces the time taken to submit a manuscript by 25%

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Keywords are specific terms that define what your paper is about. Keywords are important for search engine optimisation and enhance the discoverability of your work and its impact. They also help editors to identify peer reviewers for your manuscript.

We ask authors to use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) descriptors as keywords to optimise discoverability. MeSH provides two tools to help authors select MeSH descriptors as keywords:

  • MeSH on Demand – input text from an abstract to automatically identify related terms
  • MeSH Browser – search for related terms and descriptors using an existing list of keywords

You can start to type in a term and select from a list of suggested matches or search the full list of keywords. If your required MeSH descriptor is not available in the keyword list please contact the editorial office who will arrange for it to be added. You will be able to include this at revision.

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Authors and Institutions

On submission of your article through our submission system you will be asked to provide a name, email address and institutional affiliation for all contributing authors. In the final published article author names, institutions and addresses will be taken from these completed fields and not from the submitted Word document. Refer to the BMJ policy on authorship for more information.

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Manuscript format

The manuscript must be submitted as a Word document (BMJ Case Reports request that authors submit using a template which should also be in Word format). PDF is not accepted.

The manuscript should be presented in the following order:

  • Abstract, or a summary for case reports (Note: references should not be included in abstracts or summaries)
  • Main text separated under appropriate headings and subheadings using the following hierarchy: BOLD CAPS, bold lower case, Plain text, Italics
  • Tables should be in Word format and placed in the main text where the table is first cited. Tables should also be cited in numerical order
  • Acknowledgments, Competing Interests, Funding and all other required statements
  • References. All references should be cited in the main text in numerical order

BMJ has introduced a submission prefill tool to help authors populate various fields on submission of their manuscript to ScholarOne. When authors start their submission they will have the option, when prompted, to upload their manuscript enabling the system to automatically extract and populate the following submission fields if available in the main manuscript document: Title, Abstract, Authors, Institutions, Funders. This tool typically reduces the time taken to submit a manuscript by 25%.

Figures must be uploaded as separate files (view further details under the Figures/illustrations section). All figures must be cited within the main text in numerical order and legends should be provided at the end of the manuscript.

Online Supplementary materials should be uploaded using the File Designation “Supplementary File” on the submission site and cited in the main text.

Please remove any hidden text headers or footers from your file before submission.

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Acronyms and abbreviations should be used sparingly and fully explained when first used. Abbreviations and symbols must be standard. SI units should be used throughout, except for blood pressure values which should be reported in mm Hg.

Whenever possible, drugs should be given their approved generic name. Where a proprietary (brand) name is used, it should begin with a capital letter.

To ensure a consistent approach, submitted articles should not include Trademark or Registered trademark symbols in the main text, tables or figures.

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Figures and illustrations

Authors should upload any images and figures in the highest resolution possible, and these should be uploaded as separate files. Any cleaning or image enhancement should be clearly described in the submission and in the figure legend. All images must be cited within the main text in numerical order and legends must be provided (ideally at the end of the manuscript). Video: How to improve your graphs and tables.

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Colour images

For certain journals, authors of unsolicited manuscripts that wish to publish colour figures in print will be charged a fee to cover the cost of printing. Refer to the specific journal’s instructions for authors for more information.

Alternatively, authors are encouraged to supply colour illustrations for online publication and black and white versions for print publication. Colour publication online is offered at no charge, but the figure legend must not refer to the use of colours. Detailed guidance on figure preparation

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File types

Figures should be submitted in TIFF, EPS, JPEG or PDF formats. Please note, figures submitted in TIFF formats should be a single-layered flat file; we can not accept TIFF files which contain multiple pages. In EPS files, text (if present) should be outlined. For non-vector files (eg TIFF, JPEG) a minimum resolution of 300 dpi is required, except for line art which should be 1200 dpi. Histograms should be presented in a simple, two-dimensional format, with no background grid.

For figures consisting of multiple images/parts, please ensure these are submitted as a single composite file for processing. We are unable to accept figures that are submitted as multiple files.

Figures are checked using automated quality control and if they are below the minimum standard you will be alerted and asked to resupply them.

Please ensure that any specific patient/hospital details are removed or blacked out (e.g. X-rays, MRI scans, etc). Figures that use a black bar to obscure a patient’s identity are not accepted.

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Tables should be in Word format and placed in the main text where the table is first cited. Tables must be cited in the main text in numerical order. Please note that tables embedded as Excel files within the manuscript are NOT accepted. Tables in Excel should be copied and pasted into the manuscript Word file.

Tables should be self-explanatory and the data they contain must not be duplicated in the text or figures. Any tables submitted that are longer/larger than 2 pages will be published as online only supplementary material. Video: How to improve your graphs and tables

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Multimedia files

You may submit multimedia files to enhance your article. Video files are preferred in .WMF or .AVI formats, but can also be supplied as .FLV, .Mov, and .MP4. When submitting, please ensure you upload them using the File Designation “Supplementary File – Video”.

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BMJ reference style
BMJ formats references using Vancouver style; references are sequentially numbered within the text of the main document and match the reference list at the end of the article. The first three authors are listed by last name and initials, with additional authors acknowledged by the use of ‘et al’ if applicable.

Depending on the type of reference, we may also include: the publication name, date of publication, volume and page numbers, chapter, DOI, URL, PubMed ID, access date, and any other necessary information.

Exception: Medical Humanities uses Chicago author-date referencing which is more commonly used in social sciences; references are listed by author and date within the text of the main document with the an alphabetical reference list at the end of the article. Please see the online style manual for details and this published article for examples.

Preparing references

  • Authors are asked to follow these guidelines when formatting their references:
  • References should be cited in numerical order (i.e. 1,2,3) in the text and be listed numerically in the reference list at the end of the article
  • The reference list should be included as part of the main text document
  • Do not include references as footnotes by using the Footnotes and/or Endnotes function and/or Citations & Bibliography function in Word or by using EndNote
  • References cited in the text should be presented in square brackets [6] or superscripts. Parentheses (6) should be used for in-line lists
  • Multiple reference citations should be separated by commas [6, 9, 12] or by hyphens if numbers are sequential [12-15]
  • Reference citations within figures and tables (or their legends/footnotes) should be listed in the reference list
  • References in the reference list should include:
    1. author names in any format
    2. article title
    3. DOI or PubMed ID

Example references


  • Print journal article: Koziol-Mclain J, Brand D, Morgan D, et al. Measuring injury risk factors: question reliability in a statewide sample. Inj Prev 2000;6:148–50.
  • Online only journal article: Dark P, Dunn G, Chadwick P, et alThe clinical diagnostic accuracy of rapid detection of healthcare-associated bloodstream infection in intensive care using multipathogen real-time PCR technology. BMJ Open 2011;1:e000181. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000181
  • Supplement article: Mugosa A, Cizmovic M, Lakovic T, et alAccelerating progress on effective tobacco tax policies in Montenegro. Tobacco Control 2020;29:s293-s299
  • Abstract article: Bricca A, Swithenbank Z, Scott N, et al21 Predictors of recruitment in randomised controlled trials of smoking cessation: meta-regression analyses from the IC-SMOKE systematic review project. Abstract competing for the ‘doug altman scholarship’. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine 2019;24:A52-A53.
  • Rapid response to an article: Krishnamoorthy KM, Dash PK. Novel approach to transseptal puncture. Heart Online [Rapid response] 18 September 2001.

Databases and websites:

  • Preprints: Rostami A, Sepidarkish M, Leeflang M, et al. First snap-shot meta-analysis to estimate the prevalence of serum antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in humans. MedRxiv 20185017 [Preprint]. September 02, 2020
  • Data citations: Wang G, Zhu Z, Cui S, at al. Glucocorticoid induces incoordination between glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons in the amygdala. Dryad Digital Repository [dataset]. August 11, 2017.
  • Electronic citations: Moore A. Paracetamol: widely used and largely ineffective [online]. 2018. (accessed 23 May 2018).

Books and Legal:

  • Book: Howland J. Preventing Automobile Injury: New Findings From Evaluative Research. Dover, MA: Auburn House Publishing Company 1988:163–96.
  • Chapter in a book: Nagin D. General deterrence: a review of the empirical evidence. In: Blumstein A, Cohen J, Nagin D, eds. Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimating the Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences 1978:95–139.
  • Legal material: Toxic substances Contro Act: Hearing on S776 Before the Subcommittee of the Environment of the Senate Comm. on Commerce, 94th Congress 1st September (1975).
  • Law references: The two main series of law reports, Weekly Law Reports (WLR) and All England Law Reports (All ER) have three volumes a year e.g. Robertson v Post Office [1974] 1 WLR 1176

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Authors whose research has been presented at a scientific meeting are of course still able to publish in any of our journals, but we ask that prior presentation of the work at a conference should be acknowledged in the manuscript and any published conference abstract(s) should be cited

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Supplemental material

Additional information such as figures, tables, raw data and methodology statements, may be submitted and published alongside your manuscript as ‘supplemental material’.  Supplemental material shall only be accepted subject to the following criteria:

  • Content: Supplemental material should be used to support and enhance the content of your manuscript. Content should be directly relevant to the content of your manuscript.
  • Publication: Supplemental material will be published online only.  This content may or may not be peer-reviewed, depending on the requirements of the relevant publication’s editorial office.
  • Citation: The use of any supplemental material should be cited within the main text of the manuscript.
  • Formatting: Supplemental material will only be published on an ‘as supplied’ basis, without checking for accuracy, copyediting, typesetting or proofing.  You are responsible for proofing the content and for ensuring that the style and formatting of your content is consistent with the corresponding manuscript.  
  • File submission: Supplemental material may be submitted in PDF file format.  Files should not exceed 350MB and should be uploaded using the file designation “Supplemental Material [Description]”.
  • Translated Abstract: Where a translated version of the abstract in the author’s local language is submitted, this file should be uploaded using the file designation “Abstract in local language”.
  • Restrictions: Supplemental material hosted on a third party website or platform will not be accepted.
  • Liability Disclaimer: The relevant publication’s Author Licence will apply in respect of any supplemental materials submitted.  You are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of that content. A disclaimer of BMJ’s liability will appear on the published supplemental material.

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