Few people have the time to read long articles. Authors will need to justify articles beyond 4,500 words in their proposals and seek explicit permission of the Chair of the Editorial Board to exceed the BAMS article maximum of 7,500 words. Keep in mind that very few people will read an article of this length from beginning to end. Intelligent use of appendices can be helpful. The most common impediment for readers is redundancy and/or other poor organization of the paper’s ideas. Reducing redundancies between captions and main text can also be helpful.
Appendices are appropriate for technical methods that are not fully necessary for all readers to absorb. They are also a good space for quantifying work in more detail than might be necessary for most readers. Appendices appear near the end of the online article. They are not counted in determining the maximum allowable length of the manuscript.
Online Supplemental Material
Supplemental material has strong relevance to the article and is especially useful for large tables that might be unnecessary for the general reader or for animations and other digital content. Please note that any additional content that can be presented reasonably as an Appendix should be submitted as such—e.g., text, figures, normal-sized tables, and equations—rather than as a Supplement. Supplements ultimately are published as separate files online, whereas Appendices are included in the file of the article. BAMS provides an icon and footnote in the main text to alert readers to the availability of the supplements. The digital version of BAMS contains a live hyperlink to the supplements. Referring to the supplemental material in the text is beneficial to the reader. However, supplements are separate files from the main article file. As a result, in general, added text or graphics that are conducive to a PDF format will be more accessible to readers if presented as Appendices within (but at the end of) the same document as the main sections of the article.
BAMS allows sidebars for specialized content, and a sidebar may be up to about 500 words. However, sidebars should be rare. Potential sidebars are usually better presented as appendices, and the author should have a clear reason for formatting text as a sidebar rather than as an appendix. A short aside might, for example, be best placed as a footnote. An aside about context or application might fit into introductory or discussion sections—or an appendix.
Avoid duplicating caption information in the main text. Likewise, an explanation about how to read a figure or table should be in the caption, not in the main text.
Equations are essential and often the most elegant way to communicate science. However, sometimes well-known equations are best left to references rather than reprinting them in the article.
Use “active voice” wherever possible. Passive voice is wordy and harder to read. Keep your paragraphs under 150 words when possible. Ultimately, a good BAMS article should be readily accessible to students who are serious about the subject matter; keep in mind that some readers will not be familiar with the significance/relevance of your cited information without summarizing statements or explanations.
A BAMS audience is full of nonspecialists and experts in related disciplines who may someday wish to apply or redirect your findings into new areas of research and services. They might ultimately collaborate with you in new directions that are not easy to anticipate. This is not a journal that is mostly by specialist-authors writing only for each other.
Please remember to explain the context of your paper, your work, and your findings. Provide vivid examples of your points—from findings, prior references, or otherwise—and interpret them for your reader. Don’t assume that a figure speaks for itself. Be sure to note what is surprising and what is expected about what you are saying—these are aspects that might be relatively obvious to your closest colleagues but not to others.
And also, perhaps most important of all: make clear the possibilities for follow-up work and collaborations.
Achieve a Linear Flow
Make reading a linear experience by achieving a logical, compelling flow. It is better to trim some detail on some points in order to focus on a few essential ideas and thus give more space to establishing the context and logical flow. The best way to create an inexorable momentum that sweeps readers to your concluding paragraphs is to make one overarching point early and then organize everything else in the article such that it argues (pro or con) and amplifies that point. Most points inessential to that flow will be better material for an appendix or possibly a supplemental file.
Redundancy is a sign of poor flow. The traditional article format—introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusions—encourages repetition. This is also true for a good lecture format, in which you tell students what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, and then you summarize what you told them. However, this style works best with a captive audience—not with readers. If you find yourself referring to a previous section or a later section of the article or if you find yourself summarizing a previous point, you will dissuade readers from continuing. They might jump ahead or even quit reading. Your conclusions should take the next logical step in the article instead of repeating what has already been said. Likewise, the introductory pages should not be an abstract or summary of subsequent pages. Use the opening of the article to establish a context and give readers a reason to continue by making one key, overarching point that will be worth explaining in subsequent paragraphs.
Aim for exposition and avoid long bulleted or numbered sections. Your article should not look like an outline or a list. Lists lack the context, transition, and relationships that are necessary for the flow and retention of information.
Multiple levels of subheads are another form of outlining that discourages necessary context and flow. Focus on agile transitions and limit your subheads to one or two levels. Note that BAMS articles never begin with a subhead; the subheads are also not numbered, unlike many other journals.