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.

To maximise the chances of your paper being accepted, it is a good idea to review and follow the formatting guidelines carefully. If your paper fits the journal’s format and article type specifications, busy editors and reviewers will have a much easier job at considering your paper, and this will save time in the long run.

In order to reduce the chance of your manuscript being returned to you, please use the below checklist and guidelines. 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 Help page. 

Note: Before formatting your paper for submission to a specific journal, please consider the following:

  • Would my paper benefit from professional language editing? (More info here)
  • Should I first host my paper on a preprint server? (More info here)
Formatting checklist


  1. Author information: Have you got an ORCID iD (from the 28th November 2018 a majority of BMJ Journals will be mandating ORCID iDs for all submitting authors at the time of article submission). Have you provided details of all of your co-authors? Is the information that you have entered into ScholarOne the same as the information on the manuscript title page?
  2. Manuscript length and formatting: Have you provided your abstract in the correct format? Have you supplied any required additional information for your article type, such as key messages? Have you checked that your manuscript doesn’t exceed the requirements for word count, number of tables and/or figures, and number of references? 
  3. Tables: Are your tables in an editable format? Have you embedded them into the main word document? Have they been cited in the text? Have you provided appropriate table legends? Have you uploaded any lengthy tables as supplementary files for online publication?
  4. Figures: Have you uploaded figures separately from the text? Have they been supplied in an acceptable format and are they of sufficient quality? Are they suitable for black and white reproduction (unless you intend to pay any required fees for colour printing)? Have the files been labelled appropriately? Have the figures been cited in the text? Have you provided appropriate figure legends?
  5. References: Have all of the references been cited in the text?
  6. Supplementary files: Have you supplied these in an acceptable format? Have they been cited in the main text?
  7. Statements: Have you included the necessary statements relating to author contributorship, competing interests and funding, data sharing, patient consent and ethical approval?
  8. Acknowledgements: Have you acknowledged all contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship? Have you acknowledged if your work has been previously presented at a conference/published as a conference abstract?
  9. Suggested reviewers: Have you suggested reviewers for your paper (if required by the journal)?
  10. Research reporting checklists: Have you either provided the appropriate statement for your study type, or explained why a checklist isn’t required?
  11. Reproducing figures: Have you obtained permission from the copyright holder to re-use any previously published material? Has the source been acknowledged?


Formatting Guidelines
Title page




This is excluded for the journal BMJ Quality and Safety which operates triple-blind peer review.

The title page must contain the following information:

  • Title of the article.
  • Full name, postal address, e-mail and telephone number of the corresponding author.
  • Full name, department, institution, city and country of all co-authors.
  • Word count, excluding title page, abstract, references, figures and tables.






Authors can usually opt to (or are required to) choose keywords relevant to the content of the manuscript during the submission process. This assists in the identification of the most suitable reviewers for the manuscript. The selected keywords should also be included in the abstract itself.


Manuscript format


The manuscript must be submitted as a Word document (BMJ Case Reports and Veterinary Record 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:

  • Title page.
  • 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.

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.





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.





Images must be uploaded as separate files. 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 

Colour images and charges

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 

File types

Figures should be submitted in TIFF, EPS, JPEG or PDF formats. 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.

During submission, ensure that the figure files are labelled with the correct File Designation of “Mono Image” for black and white figures and “Colour Image” for colour figures.

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.






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 

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”.



Authors are responsible for the accuracy of cited references and these should be checked before the manuscript is submitted.

Citing in the text

References must be numbered sequentially as they appear in the text. References cited in figures or tables (or in their legends and footnotes) should appear at the end of the reference list to avoid re-numbering if tables and figures are moved around at peer review/proof stage. Reference numbers in the text should be inserted immediately after punctuation (with no word spacing)—for example,[6] not [6].

Where more than one reference is cited, these should be separated by a comma, for example,[1, 4, 39]. For sequences of consecutive numbers, give the first and last number of the sequence separated by a hyphen, for example,[22-25]. References provided in this format are translated during the production process to superscript type, and act as hyperlinks from the text to the quoted references in electronic forms of the article.

Please note that if references are not cited in order the manuscript may be returned for amendment before it is passed on to the Editor for review.

Preparing the reference list

References must be numbered consecutively in the order in which they are mentioned in the text.

Only papers published or in press should be included in the reference list. Personal communications or unpublished data must be cited in parentheses in the text with the name(s) of the source(s) and the year. Authors should request permission from the source to cite unpublished data.

Journals from BMJ use a slightly modified version of Vancouver referencing style (see example below). Note that The BMJ uses a different style.

BMJ reference style

List the names and initials of all authors if there are 3 or fewer; otherwise list the first 3 and add ‘et al.’ (The exception is the Journal of Medical Genetics, which lists all authors). Use one space only between words up to the year and then no spaces. The journal title should be in italic and abbreviated according to the style of Medline. If the journal is not listed in Medline then it should be written out in full.

Check journal abbreviations using PubMed 

Check citation information using PubMed 

Example references

Journal article

13 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.

Chapter in book

14 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.


15 Howland J. Preventing Automobile Injury: New Findings From Evaluative Research. Dover, MA: Auburn House Publishing Company 1988:163–96.


16 Roxburgh J, Cooke RA, Deverall P, et al. Haemodynamic function of the carbomedics bileaflet prosthesis [abstract]. Br Heart J 1995;73(Suppl 2):P37.

Electronic citations

Websites are referenced with their URL and access date, and as much other information as is available. Access date is important as websites can be updated and URLs change. The “date accessed” can be later than the acceptance date of the paper, and it can be just the month accessed.

Electronic journal articles

Morse SS. Factors in the emergency of infectious diseases. Emerg Infect Dis 1995 Jan-Mar;1(1). (accessed 5 Jun 1998).

Electronic letters

Bloggs J. Title of letter. Journal name Online [eLetter] Date of publication. url eg: Krishnamoorthy KM, Dash PK. Novel approach to transseptal puncture. Heart Online [eLetter] 18 September 2001.

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).

Washington v Glucksberg 521 US 702 (1997)

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.
For example:
Robertson v Post Office [1974] 1 WLR 1176

Ashcroft v Mersey Regional Health Authority [1983] 2 All ER 245

R v Clarence [1868] 22 QBD 23

Wimpey Construction UK Ltd v Poole (1984) Times, 3 May

There are good historical precedents for the use of square and round brackets. Since 1891, round ones have referred to the date of the report, square ones to the date of publication of the report. Apart from not italicising the name of the case, we use the lawyers’ style; be careful with punctuation. Here are some more examples:

Caparo Industries plc v Dickman and others [1990] 1 All ER 568-608.

R v Clarence [1888] 22 QBD 23.

Finlayson v HMAdv 1978 SLT (Notes) 60

Block v Martin (1951) 4 DLR 121

Official Journal of the European Communities: at the top of the page it gives the No, vol, and page and, at the other side of the header, the date.
The abbreviation for the title is given in parentheses under the title. Jiggle these elements around to get, eg:
Council Directive of 14 June 1989. Offical Journal of the European Communities No L 1989 June 28:181/44-6. (89/831/EEC.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

A DOI is a unique string created to identify a piece of intellectual property in an online environment and is particularly useful for articles that are published online before appearing in print (and therefore have not yet been assigned the traditional volume, issue and page number references). The DOI is a permanent identifier of all versions of an article, whether raw manuscript or edited proof, online or in print. Thus the DOI should ideally be included in the citation even if you want to cite a print version of an article.

Find a DOI 

How to cite articles with a DOI before they have appeared in print
  1. Alwick K, Vronken M, de Mos T, et al. Cardiac risk factors: prospective cohort study. Ann Rheum DisPublished Online First: 5 February 2004. doi:10.1136/ard.2003.001234
How to cite articles with a DOI once they have appeared in print
  1. Vole P, Smith H, Brown N, et al. Treatments for malaria: randomised controlled trial. Ann Rheum Dis2003;327:765–8 doi:10.1136/ard.2003.001234 [published Online First: 5 February 2002].



Online only supplementary material


Additional figures and tables, methodology,  raw data, etc may be published online only as supplementary material. If your paper exceeds the word count you should consider if any parts of the article could be published online only. Please note that these files will not be copyedited or typeset and will be published as supplied, therefore PDF files are preferred.

All supplementary files should be uploaded using the File Designation “Supplementary File”. Please ensure that any supplementary files are cited within the main text of the article.

Some journals also encourage authors to submit translated versions of their abstracts in their local language, which are published online only alongside the English version. These should be uploaded using the File Designation “Abstract in local language”.