How to Write Scientific Names (part 2)

How to format scientific names in academic writing


Publications and style guides can be quite different. However, it is safer to italicize the scientific name of any species of plant or animal.


Moreover, the genus (the first component) must be capitalized, while the species and subspecies should be written in lowercase.

Categories above genus

It should be noted although binomial scientific names should always be italicized, any category above the level of the genus should be written in roman (i.e., non-italicized) text. The exceptions to this rule include bacteria, fungi, and viruses; for these taxa, italics are also used at the family level.

Multiple appearances

Furthermore, in case a scientific name is repeated multiple times in a text, the genus would be abbreviated to include only the first letter after the first appearance in the text.

For example:

Feliscatus belongs to the order Carnivora, indicating that F. catus subsists primarily on meat.”


Please be noticed that subspecies should be formatted in the same way as the species—lowercase and italicized. However, in case the subspecies name is the same as the species name (e.g., the tiger Pantheratigristigris), the species may be abbreviated to the initial letter (Panthera t. tigris).

Unknown species

In the case of the unknown species, the abbreviation “sp.” should be used in place of the species name, and it will not be italicized. The abbreviation “spp.” suggests a group of unknown species as well. The term “sp. novo” is indicative of a species that is introduced for the first time.

Discoverers’ names

At times, the abbreviated or full surname of the person who named the species comes after the scientific name (e.g., “Quercusalba L.” or “Quercus alba Linnaeus”). However, it should be noted that this part should never be italicized.

Parting advice: make sure of consistency

Eventually, you must use and format scientific names consistently all through your article,  or thesis.

Ensuring that scientific terms are written and formatted consistently all through the article can be very labor-intensive and time-consuming when you are working on a lengthy document.

For this reason, it is always helpful to have someone check your work prior to submitting the final document. It is suggested to ask a friend or colleague to check your work or hire a professional editor. This way you can make sure that your readers will understand and appreciate your work without being discouraged by the encountered errors or inconsistencies.

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