Cochrane Style Manual
Character formatting (typography)

In this section: General guidance | Bold | Italic | Underline | Subscript and superscript

General guidance

Seven character formatting styles are available for use in the text in Review Manager 5 (RevMan 5): regular, bold, italic, bold italic, underline, subscript, and superscript.

Avoid using font styles other than ‘regular’ for emphasis; instead, use an alternative sentence structure or intensify the adjectives and adverbs to achieve this.


Bold may be used to indicate letters used to form an acronym or abbreviation (see Abbreviations and acronyms).  It may also be used to distinguish primary from secondary information (see Lists).


Italic may be applied to titles and subtitles of books and journals, and genus and species names. There are also situations in which to avoid using italic; for example, non-English words that have become naturalized into English (these should be in 'regular' style). Punctuation around any text in italic, such as quotation marks, semicolons, and colons, should be in 'regular' style.

  Correct Incorrect

Titles of books and journals in the text of reviews

We looked through Brain Injury.

Note: 'The' should have an initial capital and be in italic if it forms part of the title (e.g. we looked through The Lancet).

We looked through Brain Injury.

We searched the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for a particular review.

Note: among the Cochrane Library databases, only Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is italicized.

We searched The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for a particular review.

Genus and species names

Plasmodium falciparum

Staphylococcus aureus

Note: the genus name starts with an upper-case letter, and the species name is all lower case.

Note: once an organism's name has been mentioned in full, use the abbreviated form, e.g. P falciparum, S aureus.

Note: for more information see Virus names.

Plasmodium falciparum

P. falciparum

Staphylococcus Aureus

S. Aureus

Gene and protein names and abbreviated names

The gene under investigation is insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1).

The IGF1 gene is responsible for producing the IGF1 protein.

Note: when the gene name is written in full it is not italicized. 

Note: the full gene name should be provided, with the abbreviated form in brackets, before the abbreviated version is used.

Note: when the gene and protein names are abbreviated, the gene name is italicized, while that of the protein is not. Abbreviated names for RNA and complementary DNA (cDNA) genes and proteins will usually follow the same convention. Further information about formatting these names can be found at:, and

Note: although these formatting conventions are implemented across species types, the composition of the letters and numbers that make up the abbreviated names of genes and proteins, and their capitalization, varies between different types of organism. For more information consult: human:; rat:; mouse:; flies:; worms:; Escherichia coli (E coli):

The gene under investigation is IGF1.

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFRis a protein found on cells that plays a vital role in promoting cell growth. 

Words naturalized into the English language

in vitro

in vivo

a priori

et al

in vitro

in vivo

a priori

et al

GRADE levels of evidence

Use of the cream improved dryness (RR 1.40, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.71; 1 study, 128 participants; moderate-quality evidence).

Use of the cream improved dryness (RR 1.40, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.71; 1 study, 128 participants; moderate-quality evidence).


Avoid underlining words. Underlined text can be confused with internet links.

Subscript and superscript

Subscript and superscript have specific uses. Some examples are displayed below.

  Correct Incorrect


Member of chemical group: vitamin D3

vitamin D3

Number of atoms: H2O





Mass number: 14C


Metres squared: 12 m2

12 m2

See also: Footnotes

Section info
Describe change
Expanded section on use of bold text.
Change date
5 March 2021