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Style Guide for NASA History Authors and Editors

The purpose of style guidelines is to achieve consistency in prose style and usage so that readers can become absorbed in the content rather than be distracted by curiosities in form. Authors and editors likewise will have an easier task, composing and revising by the same set of rules. Guidelines are guidelines, however, and not laws etched in stone. Rules of usage, to serve their purpose, must of necessity strike a balance between custom, clarity, and principle.

In general, NASA history authors, editors, printers, and proofreaders should follow The Chicago Manual of Style. Exceptions and frequently recurring expressions are noted in the following sections:



Define frequently used acronyms upon first usage. Try to avoid excessive use of acronyms, which is a plague of bureaucratic writing and speech.


In both footnotes and endnotes, make maximum use of abbreviations. Notes will be read by specialists who can tolerate tight writing for the sake of maximum information in minimum space.

Proper Names:

Take care with the names of companies and organizations. Some use the ampersand as part of the name, some do not. Do not substitute an ampersand for "and" in a proper name.

Do not abbreviate state names in the narrative of a manuscript, with the exception of Washington DC because "Washington, DC" is widely used, and "Washington, District of Columbia" is cumbersome. In notes use the traditional Postal Service abbreviation, e.g. AZ, PA, MI, etc.

Units of Measure:

See section on "Measurements," below. Units of measure require no periods after their abbreviations.


Lowercase a.m. and p.m.


The bibliography should do two things: describe what materials you used in arriving at your conclusions, and guide other researchers who may want to use those same materials. A mere listing of sources only repeats the notes in a different form. All books published in the NASA History Series require a bibliographic essay.

Begin the essay with a discussion of the primary sources available for use, followed by an evaluation of secondary sources. These should be discussed in descending order from most to least important. Divide the essay into categories that suit the materials or your manuscript. You might, for example, have subdivisions on retired records, archival material, manuscript collections, government documents, and secondary works. Or you might have a section on sources applicable to your entire subject, followed by sections on the sources for each chapter.

An alphabetical list of persons interviewed, if the number is large, will permit the use of brief citations in the source notes. Include complete name, title and place at time of interview, and date. Likewise, some forethought in describing collections of unpublished materials in the bibliography will often simplify your citation of items from those collections.

Do not feel obliged to discuss a source in the bibliography just because you have cited it in your notes. Limit yourself to important sources, and discuss them fully with proper analysis.

You will be the first researcher to look at many of the NASA records. Help those who follow you by sharing your experiences. Comment on finding aids, accuracy of the inventories, consistency of filing systems and cross-referencing, completeness of files, presence of marginal notes and buck slips on formal documents. Were there any surprises, such as accident reports under personnel records, or empty file folders? Comment on the usefulness of the documents themselves. Are they routine papers or policy papers? Can one trace the decision-making process or do you see only the published results? Aside from the subject matter, do the documents reveal anything through style? In every case cite the document and its location so that it can be easily found by other researchers.

Give the size and condition of each major collection: e.g., 500 cubic feet, some records badly aged and nearly illegible. If you examined less than the entire collection, what sampling system did you use? Are any of the documents classified? If so, how does the custodian handle access and declassification? Discuss any sources that you did not examine but which you believe might further illuminate your story. It might be well to explain briefly why you did not look at them (time is the usual excuse).

Remember to clearly document where you found your archival sources. Many archives have a preference in how authors document their archival source material. Be sure to inquire when researching at different archives how they wish to have their material cited. The NASA History Division in Washington DC uses the following format:

Folder name, file number, Title of document, NASA Center (Headquarters, Ames Research Center, etc.) Historical Reference Collection, Location (Washington, DC, etc.).


Capitalization generally should follow usage indicated in the Chicago Manual of Style . Because particular words or expressions tend to appear frequently in NASA History Division manuscripts and publications, the following usages especially should be noted:

  • Antarctica; the Arctic
  • Doppler effect; x-ray
  • Scientific or technical terms (or, for that matter, all terms) containing a proper name should be capitalized. This holds true whether the name is used in the possessive form or not. Occasionally one does not know whether a term is derived from an individual's name. Find out.
  • FY 1985; fiscal year 1984
  • NASA Headquarters, the headquarters
  • Wernher von Braun, von Braun (an exception to the Chicago Manual of Style )
  • NASA Advisory Council, NASA Task Force for the Study of Effective Shuttle Utilization
  • All formal working groups, committees and task-forces having quasi-policy or quasi-administrative authority within NASA and other federal agencies should be capitalized.

Astronomical Bodies:

Capitalize the names of planets (e.g. Earth, Mars, Jupiter). Capitalize moon when referring to Earth's Moon, otherwise lowercase moon (e.g. the Moon orbits the Earth, Jupiter's moons). Do not capitalize solar system and universe.

In titles:

Follow Chicago , with these exceptions: 1) capitalize prepositions of five or more letters and 2) capitalize "to" when it is part of the infinitive form of a verb (e.g., "To Run"), because in that case it is not acting as a preposition.

Of entities:

Apart from NASA-specific terms, follow Chicago 's "down" style for words like "administration" (meaning presidential), "federal government," "state," and so on. Do capitalize "Agency" and "Administration" when short for NASA, for example, because that is NASA style.

Government Units:

Follow the Government Printing Office's Style Manual (1973) by capitalizing the full names of existing or proposed organized bodies and their shortened names. Common noun substitutes are capitalized only in certain instances to indicate preeminence. Examples:

  • U.S. Congress, 89th Congress, the Congress, the Senate, Committee of the Whole; Virginia Assembly, the assembly, the house of delegates;
  • Department of Agriculture, the Department, but departmental units, legislative departments; American Embassy, the Embassy, but the consulate, the consulate general;
  • Department of Defense; DOD; Principal Investigator; the Army; Commander Malone, the Commander (when referring to a specific person); but Grant's army, the three commanders;
  • French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry; the Luftwaffe;
  • titles of heads of state and assistant heads of an existing or proposed national government unit are capitalized, e.g., President George Bush, the President; Vice President Dan Quayle, the Vice President; for NASA: Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, the Administrator; Deputy Administrator Aaron Cohen, the Deputy Administrator; Center Director Al Diaz, the Center Director; Assistant Administrator Michael O'Brien, the Assistant Administrator.
  • We capitalize titles, not job descriptions, as long as it refers to a specific person (e.g. Steve Dick, NASA Chief Historian; the Galileo Program Manager, the NEAR Mission Director, but the program managers).


All dates should be in a day month year format. The year of an event may be omitted in instances where it is clear to the reader from previous discussion. In addition, usage includes the 1970s; on the 15th; 7 July 1983; effective 7 July, etc.

Enumerations in running text:

Use a single closing parenthesis for enumeration in running text: "We have published books on 1) the Deep Space Network, 2) Apollo, and 3) Centaur." If you are using letters (less common), they would be written in a similar fashion: a), b), c).

Figure and table references:

Use the word "figure" (lowercase and spelled out) in references (e.g., "See figure 1.2 . . ."). This holds true for tables as well (see Chicago 12.2).

Hyphenated and Compound Words:

The Chicago Manual of Style has an interesting discussion of permanent and temporary compound words; it directs us to dictionaries as arbiters of what is contemporary usage in the anarchistic realm of hyphenated words. We find Fowler's instruction on the hyphen still valid:

The hyphen is not an ornament; it should never be placed between two words that do not require uniting & can do their work equally well separate; & on the other hand the conversion of a hyphenated word into an un-hyphened single one is desirable as soon as the novelty of the combination has worn off, if there are no obstacles in the way of awkward spelling, obscurity, or the like. . .
[One proper function of the hyphen is] to convert two or more separate words into a single one acting as one adjective or noun or other part of speech. . . . [Another is] to announce that a compound expression consisting of a noun qualified adjectivally by the other element means something different from what its elements left separate would or might mean. [Example:] "Thrushes are not black birds," and "thrushes are not black-birds" or "thrushes are not blackbirds."
[Yet another use of the hyphen is] to show that two adjectives, each of which could be applied separately to a noun, are not to be so applied. [Example:] "I saw a red hot face," but "I am holding a red-hot poker." [A hyphen may also be used] to attach closely to an active or passive participle an adverb or preposition preceding or following it that would not require hyphening to the parent verb. [Example:] "You put up" a job, the result of which may be a "put-up job."

Space missions are hyphenated between the STS and number (e.g. STS-51L, STS-107).

Some examples of compound words that might come up in a NASA history manuscript:

  • African American (and other compound ethnicities) no hyphen
  • backup (n), back up (v)
  • checkout (n), check out (v)
  • clean room
  • countdown
  • crewman, crew member
  • decision-making
  • downrange
  • extravehicular activity
  • flight test (n), flight-test (v)
  • flyby, flybys (n), fly by (v)
  • follow-on (a yukky bit of jargon, to be avoided)
  • footpad
  • full-time (adj), full time (n)
  • gravity-assist (n, adj)
  • ground rules
  • groundwork
  • heatshield
  • in flight (prep phrase), inflight (adj)
  • liftoff (n), lift off (v)
  • mid-l960s
  • mock-up (n), mock up (v)
  • nose cone (but nosebleed, nosepiece, nosewheel)
  • on-board (adj), on board (prep phrase)
  • 1-inch (when used as unit modifier)
  • on-orbit (adj, adv), on orbit (prep phrase)
  • one-half (adj & n)
  • overflight, overfly
  • part-time (adj), part time (n)
  • paperwork
  • payload
  • policy-making
  • postlaunch, prelaunch (all pre- and post- forms generally one word)
  • real-time (adj), in real time (n)
  • reentry
  • retrorocket
  • rollout (n), roll out (v)
  • shirtsleeve
  • soft-land (v), soft-landing (n, adj)
  • spacecraft, spaceflight, spacesuit (craft, therefore spacecraft, sing & pl)
  • takeoff (n), take off (v)
  • under way
  • uprange
  • O-shaped
  • Vice President
  • wind tunnel
  • workday
  • work-hour, work-year
  • worldwide
  • x ray (n); x-ray (v, adj)


Think graphics as well as text from the outset. Decoration is only one of the functions of graphics in histories of science and technology. Illustration, in a well integrated and designed book, can and should have instructive value. Even in medieval manuscripts, illumination served to elaborate on the content of the text. (The function of medieval illumination is delightfully reflected in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose , 1983). In histories of science and technology sketches and drawing may be far more illustrative of an evolving concept or design than photographs; this is especially true of sequences of drawings showing the development of a scientific or engineering concept.

Refer to the illustrations in the text: The gizmo is visible behind the thingummy (fig. 28). Graphics can be redrawn for publication at NASA Headquarters, provided the original is legible enough to decipher and not so complex that subject-matter knowledge is required.

Not all photos are of reproducible quality. Images must be 300 dpi or better to reproduce clearly in a published work. Posed mug shots and static group shots are of little value. Look for activity, someone using equipment, work sessions, control rooms in use; to show scale, have a person or an automobile in front of the Saturn V. Consider rational groupings of illustrations with a common caption: successive designs, steps in a manufacturing process, stages of a launch vehicle, members of management team.

State the source and the identification number of each photograph. If there are many illustrations, consider giving all this information in a list in the back matter. Do not mark on the back or front of photographs or tape anything to them. You may want to use temporary adhesive notes, such as post-its, to attach information to the back of images. When in doubt about the reproducible qualities of photos, transparencies, etc., submit them to NASA for evaluation as soon as possible so that printing difficulties and delays can be forestalled. Do accompany photos with full identification of subject, including full names of persons. Indicate in text margins where they fit.

When sending images to the History Division, please do not send them directly. The radiation process that our mail goes through will destroy photos and may destroy CDs. It is better to send these items to the home address of your History Division contact to insure that they arrive safely.


All NASA history publications must have indexes. Those preparing indexes should follow the principles and procedures in sect. 18.1-18.139 of the Chicago Manual of Style , though in an age of electronic word processing the mechanics of index preparation may vary. Of the examples offered in the Manual , Example C (18.137) will usually meet the needs of NASA history readers.


All orbiter names should be capitalized (e.g. Atlantis, Columbia, Discovery ). We also italicize lunar module and command module names (e.g. Eagle, Columbia, Odyssey, Aquarius ). We do not italicize mission names (STS-44, Apollo 11). All ships should be italicized (e.g. the Hornet , the Enterprise ). We do not italicize the names of probes and robotic spacecraft (e.g. Voyager, Cassini).

Manned Space Program vs. Human Space Program:

All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic). The exception to the rule is when referring to the Manned Spacecraft Center, the predecessor to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, or any other official program name or title that included "manned" (e.g. Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight).


Historians of science and technology are rarely the originators of measurements. Both the original unit of measure and its mathematical value can have potential significance for historic interpretation. For example, the use of "rods" or "chains" can serve as important internal evidence for the original date and source of an otherwise unidentifiable document. Historians should not alter an original scientific or engineering notation any more than they should rewrite an original quotation . Thus the unit of measure actually used by the originating designer, engineer, researcher, etc. should always appear first, in quotation marks if appropriate, then followed by the metric or English equivalent in parentheses. For metric measurements, use the International System of Units.

On those rare occasions when the historian is the originator of a notation of measurement, use metric units of measure followed by the equivalent English units in parentheses. Spell out units of measurement unless they appear frequently on a page, in which case (once spelled out), abbreviate them; use no period.

In running text, spell out units such as miles, kilograms, and meters unless the work is very technical and such measurements make up a large percentage of the text. Using abbreviations in tables is fine. Since "km," "kg," and so on do not have periods after them, we also omit periods for "ft," "mi," and other English measurements.


Use the degree symbol for temperature (ºF, ºC) because it is so common. The number and symbol should be closed up (this is different from GPO). Examples: 100ºF, 13ºC, but 300 K (because kelvin measurements do not use the degree symbol).

Mph and rpm:

These are abbreviations rather than one-word units of measure, so define them the first time they appear and then use "mph" and "rpm."

"By" in dimensions:

Spell out "by" (instead of using an x) in something like "12 by 15 feet" unless there are many such references appearing together.

Latitude and longitude:

This is another case in which it is usually better to use the abbreviated form: 42º13"21' north latitude ( Chicago 14.24).

Monograph listings in "The NASA History Series" section of books:

Use this format: "Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 3."


Please use footnotes (and the footnote feature within Microsoft Word) for all NASA History Series manuscripts. The consecutive numbering should start anew with each chapter. The same numbering system should be used whether the notes are source or explanatory in nature.

Always follow the Chicago Manual of Style . The manual gives many examples for printed sources, but is not so helpful for correspondence, interviews, and even some published government documents. (For these, examples are offered below.)

No matter what kind of source you are citing, follow the basic format of author, title, publisher, and date, insofar as possible. If a government report has no named author but is the product of an identifiable office or agency, then the office or agency is the author. When there is no title, describe the item. Be careful citing page numbers of reports that use a hybrid pagination (4-1 for the first page of chap. 4).

Be as brief as possible, while giving enough information so that the source can be located. Make maximum use of abbreviations. Give the most detailed location of unpublished items as possible. This requirement may be at least partially met by a well-planned bibliographic essay; if so, the notes can be simplified.

Deciding whether a title has been "published" and should be set in italics is sometimes difficult. Size and format are not the criteria. To be published, the item must have been available to the public. There will usually be a publisher's imprint.

Use the short title for second and later references in the same chapter ( Chicago Manual of Style , sect. 15.35-15.40). Avoid op. cit. You may not use ibid . if the previous note contains more than one source. In those instances use "See note above." Too many ibid .'s indicate scholarly overkill, otherwise known as the "dissertation syndrome." Consider clustering the source notes, generally at the end of each paragraph, to reduce their number. This device is not satisfactory, however, when two or more direct quotations are used in the same paragraph. There usually should be at least one note for each paragraph.


For a NASA book:

Courtney G. Brooks, James M. Grimwood, and Loyd S. Swenson, Jr. Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Special Publication-4205, 1979), pp. 361-64.

Congressional documents:

House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1969 NASA Authorization ,
Hearings before the Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, 90th Cong., 2d sess. (henceforth 90/2), pt. 2, Feb. 19-21, 1968, pp. 285-86.
House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Manned Space Flight: Present and Future , staff study for the Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, 91/2, 12 Beg. 1970, p. 61.
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Communications Satellite Act of 1962 , Sen. rprt. 1873, 87/2, 10 August 1962, p. 2.

Citations of dissertations and theses:

In accordance with Chicago , titles of theses and dissertations should go in quotation marks. If you have a chapter cited within the thesis or dissertation, use the page span if you have it or put the chapter name in single quotation marks.

Jennifer L. Troxell, "The Globalization of Outer Space" (Bachelor's thesis., Michigan State University, 2002), 16-18, 40.

Letter without subject:

Arcille R. Smith to James E. Webb, 2 October 1962, James E. Webb Files, NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

Letter or memo with subject:

J. Bernadotte Shumpter to Webb, "Automated Distribution System," 4 June1965, "Departments & Agencies, NASA, 1965" folder, box 84, President's Office files, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA.

Memo "to distribution":

George M. Low to multiple addressees, "The Management Issuance System," 13 March 1967, "NHMI" folder, box 8, accession 68 A 394, record group 255, Washington National Records Center [henceforth: name of folder; followed by 68 A 394 (8), RG 255, WNRC].

Memo for record:

Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., "Use of Center Directives," memo for record, 8 November 1968, Johnson Space Center History Office, Houston, TX.

Communication other than letter or memo:

Christopher C. Kraft to George M. Low, 24 December 1972, copy in project files, history of HQ.-JSC relations, NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

No title:

Peter R. Grimes, viewgraphs and briefing notes used at General Management Review, NASA HQ., 13 April 1976, "Organization and Management" file, NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.


George M. Low interview, Troy, NY, by Edward P. Brynn, 10 September 1977, "Biography" file, NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

If the author conducted the interview, the interviewer's name should be omitted. If a consolidated list of interviews is included in the bibliographical essay, as should be done when many are used, the note can be simplified further:

Low interview.

If more than one interview with Low, then:

Low interview, 10 September 1977.

Do not cite (or use as evidence) telephone interviews unless confirmed by exchange of letters or some other written form.


Italicize URLs in all instances, whether in running text or in notes. Also indicate the "accessed date" and print out a hard copy of the Web page for archival purposes.

Author's Name, "Title of Article," Journal Name 1, no.4 (summer 2000): 13-20 [pages when appropriate], (accessed 27 August 2001).
Dennis R. Jenkins, Hypersonics Before the Shuttle: A Concise History of the X-15 Research Airplane (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2000), (accessed 28 October 404).

Page Numbers in Notes:

Use "p." and "pp." for book citations; do not use them in periodicals.

Do not truncate page numbers in ranges. Write out "pp. 153-157" instead of "pp. 153-7."

Periodicals in notes:

Style for all periodicals:

Author's name, "Title of Article," Journal Name 1, no. 4 (summer 2000): 13-20. (Where 1 represents a volume number, 4 is the number within the volume, and 13-20 are the page numbers.)

In addition to references, use notes for additional substantive matter that for some reason you do not want in the text; but do so with the understanding that the reader may skip them. Nothing essential to your argument should be in a note. What can profitably go into notes? Names that would otherwise clutter the text; definitions that a minority of your readers may need; related matters that are worth telling, but would distort the paragraph. Some authors use the device systematically for short biographies of moderately important persons. Major figures will be introduced with biographical details in the text; minor characters shouldn't even be in our texts--maybe just named in a note or an appendix.

Some authors use notes to explain how they arrived at interpretations and why they dismissed certain evidence. For instance, if a participant has read the comment edition and provided a contrary interpretation, with some supporting evidence, but you do not choose to accept that interpretation, then it is appropriate to air the whole issue in a note, for the sake of greater visibility.

For a guide on when to use notes in NASA History publications, please see on the Web.


In numbers of four or more digits, use commas between groups of three digits, counting from the right:

  • 32,987
  • 1,512
  • 2,734,456

Measurements (distance, weight, mass, clock time, force, volume, etc.):

Use numerals (35 kilometers, 10 grams, etc.). "Clock time" means units of hours or smaller. Examples: 4 minutes, 3 hours, two days, seven months, nine years.

Whole numbers from one through nine:

Write these out, including ordinals like "fourth" and "seventh."

Numbers starting at 10:

Use numerals unless it's a large round number and it seems appropriate to write it out, as in "one in ten thousand."

Actual years:

Use numerals (e.g., 1995, 2004) In the case of years, no commas are used.

Page numbers

Use numerals (e.g., pp. 972-1003). In the case of page numbers, no commas are used.

Consistency within a sentence:

If you have several numbers relating to the same thing in the same sentence and at least one of them is big enough to be written in numerals, then all of them will be in numerals. Example: "There are 8 students in the philosophy department, 13 in the classics department, and 117 in the romance languages department."

At the beginning of a sentence or title:

Write out any number that begins a sentence or title. Example: "One hundred twenty-eight students visited Kennedy Space Center."


Use a comma after each item in a series, except the last:

red, white, and blue

With quotation marks, semicolons go outside, commas and periods inside.

Insert a colon to separate book title from subtitle. In long and complex titles, you may need to add more punctuation.

On the typewriter, simulate the dash thus:

he agreed--we thought

Parenthetic expressions require a pair of commas.

Frank Anderson, Jr., wrote
Troy, New York, is
Republicans, Democrats, McCarthyites, etc., voted
The White House, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue, has

Note that restrictive clauses do not use such commas:

The white house that is on the corner of

In general, do not put periods at the end of nonsentences.

Do not use an apostrophe in plurals such as:

the 1960s
several BVDs
the three Rs

But abbreviations with periods, lowercase letters used as nouns, and capital letters that would be confusing if s alone were added, add 's :

x's and y's

The possessive of a name ending in s is 's: Ames's, Lewis's, Bureau of Standards's.

Avoid the solidus (the slash); it is often ambiguous.


In typing manuscripts, use 1-inch margins and double space everything--including long quotations and notes. The editor will probably need the space in the notes more than in the text.

Underline the names of individual spacecraft (after launch) but not the names of series and classes of craft, or prelaunch model designations.

Avoid breaking a word at the end of the line. End-of-line hyphens cause work for others downstream.

Simulate the dash thus: in the list--indeed, throughout the chapter--the word was

Use 8 1/2-by-11 paper. In a manuscript, odd-sized pages make trouble. (Nevertheless, you may have to use large sheets for tables.)


Type chapter headings and subheadings thus:

Chapter 1


First-Order Subhead

Second Order Subhead:

The text begins here, with paragraph indented.

Third Order Subhead:

Seldom used; text begins on same line. Source notes: Indent two spaces from note number. Do not use another indentation.

R. Cargill Hall, Project Ranger: A Chronology (Pasadena, CA: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, JPL/HR-2, 1971), pp. 4-52.

Ibid ., p. 54.

Word Processing Criteria:

The completed manuscript must be on PC computer disks processed with the MS Word 2000 program or on another software processing program translatable into MS Word. Alternative software must be agreed to before work begins. We request two paper copies of the manuscript on standard 8 ½ by 11 inch paper accompany the disks, one of which is the original copy. The electronic media record and the paper copy of the manuscript should be identical. Font for the processed manuscript should be 12-point Times Roman or an equivalent.

Overall Editorial Style:

The manuscript narrative must employ formal, scholarly style as defined by the current edition of the Chicago Manual of Style , supplemented by the NASA style guide. The latter is provided contractors especially to guide the expression of government and scientific nomenclature.


1. The finished manuscript must exhibit consistency of format, style, and usage throughout.
2. Passages of text making direct and attributed use of more than fifty words derived from another published work must be identified and the contractor must obtain copyright permissions or waivers.
3. Foot or endnotes attributing quoted material of paraphrased material in the manuscript to specific sources must follow rules given in the style manuals cited above. Short titles will be used in place of op. cit. or loc. cit.

Format and editorial aspects of the deliverables will be evaluated along with the substantive, intellectual quality of the manuscript.

A final word to authors...

...about academic freedom : NASA supports a history program in part because it has been mandated by the Congress of the United States to disseminate the knowledge acquired through its aeronautics and space research and exploration. It recognizes that the first casualty of self-serving history is truth, and that history that rings false is of no use to anyone--except, perhaps, to pundits. Scholars supported by the NASA History Division can expect to research and write without constraint, depending on the availability of research sources. In turn, NASA expects its scholars to work with integrity in their handling of evidence. Interpretation should rest on the best available evidence, and speculations should be acknowledged as such. Should legitimate differences arise, they should be acknowledged in a footnote or in the text.

. . . about writing : The English language is one of the glories of western civilization. It provides ample resources for elegant prose whether of the simplest or most sophisticated kind. Good writers are readers of other good writers. When difficulties are encountered in writing, the problem usually is with the thinking.

Avoid jargon which, to the astute reader, betrays a muddled and insecure writer. What is jargon? Many -ize words: prioritize, utilize, definitize; also many -ments words, e.g., advancements. If you are tempted to use a word because you think it will give an authoritative ring to your writing, or because you think it will put you among an in-group of specialist readers, don't . Writers of history are writing not only for today, but tomorrow. They should avoid trendy language which will date their work among future readers.

... and to editors

The best editors are remembered not for having obliterated an author's style and replacing it with their own, but for having helped a writer to find his or her own special voice. Among well developed writers ideas are inseparable from vocabulary, structure, tone, and rhythm in language. If a writer's choice of words is, in your view, not the most effective; if a writer's style is cumbersome, unclear, windy, abrupt, or displays other debilitating characteristics; indicate as much, tactfully, in the margin along side particular instances. Marginal queries and suggestions are more likely to have constructive effect than overt criticisms.

Mark cleanly and legibly, using conventional proof-readers' notations. Avoid marking within the body of the text as much as possible to avoid creating havoc with typists and typesetters, and to help authors see where your suggestions and corrections differ from their own original texts.

For information on when to use footnotes, please see .  

Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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