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Style guide & instructions to authors

[This document is available as a PDF file]

General notes

Contributions to MNASSA can be divided into the following:

-reader's letters;
- ASSA news (Society-related material; news from Council; activities of members, etc.);
- news notes (local and international news of interest to astronomers);
- research papers (original research papers on all branches of astronomy and
 astrophysics; papers are sent to referees before publication);
- general contributions (typically longer and more detailed than news notes, these
 contributions are less formal than research papers; these include historical articles,
 biographies, obituaries, travel accounts, observing reports, instrumentation
 development papers and progress reports on ongoing research);
- reviews (currently only book reviews are published, but during 2003 this will
 include web sites and software); and
- the observer's page (accounts of the activities of the various observing sections
 within the Society).

There are no page charges, but it is important for papers to be concise.

The ASSA holds the copyright of all the papers it publishes, but, with the author's agreement, will usually freely grant permission for reproduction for non-commercial purposes.

The publication process

Submission of manuscripts

Papers may be submitted in hard copy or electronic form. Electronic submission is strongly preferred.

Articles should be submitted to:

 The Editor: MNASSA
 c/o SAAO
 PO Box 9
 South Africa

The submission should be in computer-printed or typewritten form, in a standard font in which roman and italic characters can be distinguished. Hard copy figures should accompany the manuscript. Manuscripts and artwork are not returned after submission unless special arrangements have been agreed upon.

Electronic submission is preferred in PDF (recommended) or PostScript format. Most other formats can also be accepted (e.g. TeX, LaTeX, Microsoft Word). To limit file sizes, artwork embedded in the document should be low-resolution, with high-resolution versions made available separately.

Articles should be e-mailed to the Editor at:

  mnassa at saao dot ac dot za - please state a reference to the word "MNASSA" in the subject line of the e-mail.

The refereeing process

All submitted manuscripts are reviewed initially by a MNASSA editor. Manuscripts with insufficient priority for publication are rejected promptly.

Research papers are sent to appropriate referees for peer review. Authors may be requested to undertake revision of their paper before it is accepted for publication.

Rejected manuscripts will not be returned to authors unless specifically requested. Print copies of original illustrations, photographs and slides will be returned.

The publication process after a paper has been accepted

When a contribution has been accepted for publication, it is copy-edited for grammar, spelling, journal style, etc.

The paper is then typeset from the supplied electronic files and returned to the author for approval. These proofs are e-mailed in PDF format to the first author, and contain queries regarding ambiguities, unclear sections of text, missing information, etc.

Note that although the paper will be typeset using the author's source files as a starting point, the paper will have been converted to the typesetter's own system (Adobe PageMaker 6.5 for the PC). Therefore, proofs should be read carefully, particularly equations and other numerical matter. It is the responsibility of each author to check their proofs, reply to any queries, and notify the editor of any typographical errors. When updating the reference list, please be careful to update textual citations as well.


Authors will be provided with an electronic offprint on publication of their paper. Such offprints are e-mailed to the author who originally submitted the manuscript, unless otherwise arranged.

In addition, authors may choose to receive three printed copies of that number of MNASSA in which their article appears. These copies will be sent by surface mail to the first author.

Preparing a manuscript

Papers are typeset, as far as possible, directly from the author's submission. Authors are therefore requested to follow MNASSA's style conventions, as set out below:


Clearly indicate the title of the paper (using capital letters only where they would occur in a normal sentence), and the names and full postal addresses of each author, along with the address for correspondence if that is different.


Authors should provide an abstract, normally of not more than 200 words.


The paper should be divided into sections and, if necessary, subsections. Optionally, sections may be numbered 1, 2, 2.1, 2.1.1 etc. Appendices should be labelled A, B, etc. Section headings should contain capital letters only where they would occur in a normal sentence.


Tables should be numbered in order of their citation in the text. Each table should be provided with a caption, preferably no longer than 10 to 15 words, positioned above the table. Explanatory comments, if necessary, are placed immediately below the table.


Figures (line art & images) should be supplied electronically wherever possible.

Figures should be numbered in order of their citation in the text. Each figure should be provided with a caption positioned immediately below it.

It is the responsibility of the author to obtain the appropriate copyright permission for any figures taken from another's work.

Where a figure has several parts, labels '(a)', '(b)' etc. should be added as appropriate. Graphs containing quantitative information should have borders on all sides and fiducial marks on every border.

Authors are asked to bear in mind, when preparing their diagrams, the likely reduction that will be needed when the figure is placed in the journal page. It is important to ensure that the line thickness used will withstand a possibly significant reduction in size. This applies to all aspects of the figure, but dotted and dot-dashed lines can cause particular problems.

Axis labelling, lettering and any plotting symbols should be sized appropriately for the figure and its likely final size.

Grey-scale images can be tricky to reproduce well, owing to the slight but unavoidable loss of contrast that occurs during the printing process. Steps that authors can take to remedy this problem include: avoiding very fine (< 20 per cent) or very solid (> 80 per cent) tints, increasing the contrast between shades as much as possible, and using fewer different levels of grey.

Most graphics formats are acceptable (e.g. JPG, TIFF, GIF). Please make sure that the files have sufficient resolution: 300 dpi for grey-scale figures (e.g. photographs), and 800 dpi for line art, at final size.

Graphic files should be named to indicate clearly to which illustration they belong.


Equations should be punctuated as part of the sentence. Displayed equations are ranged left (i.e. no indent). The usual numbering convention for equations [i.e. (1), (2), (3)... or (2.1), (2.2), (2.3)...] should be followed. Equations in appendices should be numbered (A1), (A2), (B1), etc.

Scalar variables are italic; vectors are bold italic (no arrows); matrices are bold Univers font (like bold sans serif); dot products are denoted by a bold centred dot, cross-products by a bold multiplication sign.

Differential complex i, exponential e, sin, cos, tan, log, etc., are roman.

Sub/superscripts that are physical variables are italic, while those that are just labels are roman (e.g. Ct, but Teff).


Units should be in roman and separated from the number by a space - e.g. 200 km.

The units of time are ms, s, min, h, d, yr.

The units of length/distance are Å, nm, µm, mm, cm, m, km, au, light-year, pc. Use superscript -1, not solidus /, for units: e.g. km s-1 not km/s. The unit of arcseconds is arcsec when used to denote angular size or separation (e.g. 'beamsize 12 arcsec', '30 arcsec west of the star'); use '' for coordinates (e.g. Dec -30° 29' 23'').

Avoid repeating units unnecessarily (e.g. '1.3 and 2.6 mm' rather than '1.3 mm and 2.6 mm').

The unit of magnitudes is mag, not superscript m.

Percentages should be written 'per cent', not %.

Use the degree symbol ° except to denote e.g. areas, where deg2 may be more appropriate (e.g. 'a survey area of 3 deg2').

Solar masses and solar luminosities should be roman.

Use only standard SI units and those additional units that are recognized for use in astronomy.


When deciding where to add commas, it may be helpful to read through the sentence and note where the natural 'pauses' occur.


Please use British spelling - e.g. centre not center, labelled not labeled.

The following style regarding -ise/yse and -ize spellings is followed:

-ise/yse: devise, surprise, comprise, revise, exercise, analyse.

-ize: recognize, criticize, minimize, emphasize, organize, parametrize.

Miscellaneous journal spellings: acknowledgments, artefact, best-fitting (not best-fit), disc (except computer disk), haloes (not halos), hotspot, none the less, non-linear, on to, time-scale.

'Sun', 'Earth' and 'Moon' are capitalized, but 'solar' and 'lunar' are not.

'none' is a singular word ('none of the stars is a white dwarf'); 'data' is a plural word ('these data show...').

Hyphens, N-rules

Hyphens ('-') are used for compound adjectives (e.g. low-density gas, least-squares fit, two-component model). This also applies to simple units (e.g. 1.5-m telescope, 284.5-nm line), but not to complex units or ranges, which could become cumbersome (e.g. 15 km s-1 feature, 100-200 µm observations). Some words (e.g. timescale) are always hyphenated as part of journal style (see above).

N-rules ('-') are used as parentheses (e.g. 'the results - assuming no temperature gradient - are indicative of ...'), to denote a range (e.g. 1.6-2.2 µm), to denote the joining of two words (e.g. Herbig-Haro object), and also as a negative (minus) sign.


e.g., i.e., cf., etc., are roman.

Single quotes ' ' not double quotes " ".

Letters denoting wavebands (e.g. UBV) are set italic. Colour excess is set as e.g. E(B-V).

Letters denoting orbital states are set roman.

Ionized species should be denoted by small capitals, preceded by a thin space - e.g. He i.

Balmer lines are set as e.g. Ha (no subscript).

Computer software (e.g. daphot) should be in small capitals.

Satellite names should be in italic (e.g. Ginga, IRAS).

The correct bracket order is {[( )]}.

Acronyms and abbreviations should be spelt out at the first occurrence, unless they are very well known.

Dates should be written as e.g. '1998 April 14'

Figures and tables should be referred to as e.g. 'Fig. 1' and 'Table 1', unless they are from another paper, in which case 'fig. 1' and 'table 1' should be used.

Authors should check that any stellar names derived from constellations are written in the correct genitive form: e.g. V386 Sagittarii or V386 Sgr, not V386 Sagittarius.


Authors should check carefully that all references in the text appear in the reference list, and vice versa; also that the dates and spelling of names are consistent between the text and the reference list. It is the responsibility of authors to ensure the accuracy of their references.

In the text

When citing references in the text, tables or figure captions:

 for one author, use the style '(Brown 1999)' or e.g. '...the observations of
  Brown (1999)...', depending on the context;

 for two authors, use an ampersand: 'Brown & Jones (1991)';

 for three authors, give all three names at first mention, e.g. '(Brown,
  Jones & Smith 1994)', but 'et al.' (in roman) thereafter, e.g. '(Brown
  et al. 1994)';

 for more than three authors, use 'et al.';

 for several papers by the same author(s), use the style '(Brown 1992, 1995)' or
  'Smith et al. (2000a,b) show that...';

 when several papers are listed in brackets, they should be ordered by date and separated by semi-colons, e.g. '(Smith et al. 1990; Brown et al. 1995)'.

In the reference list

Use no bold or italic, and no commas after author surnames. Use an ampersand between the final two author names. List all authors if eight or fewer, otherwise 'et al.'. Enclose the year of publication in parentheses. It is recommended that the title of the paper is also added. Use a period to terminate each reference.

Dutra C. M. & Bica E. (2002) A catalogue of dust clouds in the Galaxy. Astron. Astrophys., 383, 631-635.
Gingerich O. (1988)  Shapley's Impact. In: Grindlay J.E. & Davis Philip A.G. (eds) The Harlow-Shapley Symposium on Globular Cluster Systems in Galaxies, Astron. Soc. Pac., San Francisco, 23-33.
Berry R. & Burnell J. (2000) The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing. Willmann-Bell Inc, Richmond, Virginia.
Krisciunas K. (2001) A Brief History of Astronomical Brightness Determination Methods at Optical Wavelengths. preprint (astro-ph/0106313)
de la Fuento Marcos R. (1998) Searching for open cluster remnants. Astron. Astrophys. Letters, in press.
Williams B.G. (1992) PhD thesis, Univ. Edinburgh.

Prefixes such as 'de' or 'van' should be considered as part of the family name for alphabetical arrangement, and 'Mc' should be read as 'Mac'. If there are several references with the same first author, arrange in the following order: first single-author papers (by date); then two-author papers (alphabetically by co-author, then by date); then multi-author papers (by date).

Private communications or papers in preparation should be listed as such in the text, but omitted from the reference list, e.g. 'Smith (in preparation) shows that...'.

Citation of electronic material

URLs and e-mail addresses may be placed in [ ] to improve readability.

Break a URL that goes to another line after a slash or before a period. Do not insert a hyphen at the break.

Online periodical:

Author A. A., Author B. B. & Author C. C. (Year)
   Title of article. Title of  Periodical, xx, xxxxxx.
   Retrieved month day, year, from [source].

Online document:

Author A. A. (Year) Title of work.
   Retrieved month day, year, from [source].

Article in an Internet-only journal

Fredrickson B. L. (2000 March 7) CPC2: The Second Cape Photographic Catalogue. I - History, observations and plate measurements. Online Instrumentation, 3, Article 0001a. Retrieved 2002 November 20 from [].

Article in an Internet-only newsletter

Glueckauf R. L., Whitton J., Baxter J., Kain J., Vogelgesang S., Hudson M., et al. (1998 July). A catalogue of nebulae and clusters of stars in the southern hemisphere. SouthSky News, 2(3). Retrieved from [].

Use the complete publication date given on the article. Note that there are no page numbers. In an Internet periodical, volume and issue numbers often are not relevant. If they are not used, the name of the periodical is all that can be provided in the reference.

Stand-alone document, no author identified, no date

ASP's 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.) Retrieved 2001 August 8 from

If the author of a document is not identified, begin the reference with the title of the document.



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