An Overview of the ACS Style Guide

The ACS Style Guide is the essential writing guide for the 51 scholarly journals published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). This scientific society, founded in 1876 at New York University, has over 158,000 members, all working in chemical engineering and associated fields. The third edition of the ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, published in 2006, is available online and in print. The main difference between the ACS Style Guide and other guides is its scientific focus—The Chicago Manual of Style focuses on academic books and journals; the AP Stylebook, journalism and law; and APA Style, the social sciences.

While the ACS Style Guide is essential for authors in the field of chemistry, it is used by authors in other STEM disciplines also. With expert instructions on challenges such as ethics in science writing and submission standards, it is used as a resource in teaching students how to effectively communicate scientific information.

How Does ACS Style Differ from Other Guides

As mentioned, the primary difference between ACS and other guides is its focus on chemistry. The chemical sciences use many abbreviations, and the titles of journals and conference proceedings are often presented with a standard abbreviation. The ACS Style Guide has a long listing of abbreviations for over 1000 heavily used chemistry journals.The guide also includes information on the following topics:

  • Ethics in Scientific Publication (Chapter 1)
  • Electronic Submission of Manuscripts Using Web-Based Systems (Chapter 5)
  • Numbers, Mathematics, and Units of Measure (Chapter 11)
  • Names and Numbers for Chemical Compounds (Chapter 12)
  • Conventions in Chemistry (Chapter 13)
  • Chemical Structures (Chapter 17)


In modern scientific writing, documents are considered as vehicles of data for readers. The ACS Style Guide introduces the term datument which is defined as a data-focused entity i.e. a container for data and its associated descriptions.


One important guideline in the ACS Style Guide is the format for citing a website which is essential for scholarly authors. The citation should include the title of the website, its URL, and the date the information was accessed. If an author name is given, it should be included. An example of this is shown below.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs) Database (U.S. National Version). http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcs/nicstart.html (accessed July 2001). Source: http://biblioteka.su.lt/wp-content/uploads/ACS.pdf

Approaching the ACS Style Guide

Academic writers that are new to the ACS style may ponder on the best way to approach the guide. One way is to consider the guide’s general organization. It is divided into two general sections:

Part 1–Scientific Communication

Part 2–Style Guidelines

In each part, the chapters are written by different contributors rather than the entire guidebook being authored by a single entity. Authors who are familiar with The Chicago Manual of Style know that it has three general sections: The Publishing Process, Style and Usage, and Documentation. The Associated Press Stylebook is organized by subject (business, sports, media law, etc.).

When using the ACS Style Guide for a scholarly article it is necessary to answer a question by considering the scope of your question when using the guide. Is it more general to the subject of scientific writing (Part 1) or more specific to language, format, or style (Part 2)? Once this has been determined, it is easy to locate the appropriate chapter and find the answer that is needed.


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