NLM Style: 1 More for the Best Medical Writing - Custom Scholars

NLM Style: 1 More for the Best Medical Writing

NLM StyleThe National Library of Medicine (NLM) writing style guide is used often in medicine and kinesiology. Neuroscience scholars especially favor the NLM style. It is written by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Detailed instructions are available in Citing Medicine.

There are other referencing styles you can use when writing medical papers apart from NLM. Writing style guides vary according to discipline and research journals. They tell us how to use grammar and syntax and format citations and references. The following are tips on how to choose a referencing style:

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    • The first step when preparing your article for publication is to check the journal requirements.
    • If you are writing about medicine or biology, you may want to use the American Medical Association (AMA) style.
    • If your article covers topics from the humanities or social sciences, you may prefer the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) or the Modern Language Association (MLA) style.

NLM style may seem complicated, but there is some flexibility in the finer points of formatting. The main goal is to allow readers to find your sources as they appeared when you consulted them. Your professors will likely be strict in their adherence to these essential rules:

Author names:  There should be no punctuation in first and middle name initials, and no accent marks or diacritics

Journal titles: Use abbreviations rules specified below in Journal or Magazine Examples; don’t use periods

Bibliography heading: Use “References” as the page heading. If you use citation software that does not include NLM format, use the Vancouver format instead. In-text citations: NLM provides three options for the formatting of in-text citations. Ask your professor which format they prefer although often you will most probably be asked to mix it up depending on what feels right when you are writing.

Name-Year: parenthetical statement including author last name and publication year Items in order alphabetically by author’s last name, then year of publication “…reference to Reeves article. (Reeves 2021)”
Citation-Sequence: number refers to items in reference list Items in order of appearance in text

“…reference to Reeves article1

Citation-Name: number refers to items in reference list Items in order alphabetically by author’s last name, then year of publication “…reference to Reeves article15

Citation in NLM Style

Primary Rule for citing sources in NLM: An author should never cite a source that they have not seen. When citing, be sure to refer to the version of the document that you saw. For example, do not cite a journal article you read online as a journal article in print.

Date Formats: For journal articles, dates are listed as [year] [month] [date]. The first three letters (Jan, Feb, Mar etc.) denote the month’s name. If there is a volume or issue following the date, end it with a semicolon (;). For example, 2018 Mar 14; 56(4).

Authors: Across all source types, be sure to list authors in the order that they appear in the text and be sure to include all authors.

Page Number: For journal articles, write the beginning and end page numbers of the article. Do not include the letter p when citing articles. Page numbers are abbreviated. For example, write 100–7 to indicate pages 100–107.

Journal Abbreviations: Use PubMed journal abbreviations. You can look up PubMed abbreviations in the NLM Catalog. If a journal abbreviation is not included in PubMed, follow abbreviation rules for journal abbreviation in Citing Medicine.

Reference style: Do not use bold, underline or italic fonts.

Variations: NLM Style does allow for some number of variations. It is up to the user to remember to be consistent with these variations. For example, if you decide to use a full journal title rather than the abbreviation, be sure that you use the full journal title for all journal citations.

Referencing in NLM Style


Indicate the edition when a book is published in more than one edition. Provide the language if not English. If there is no author, only an editor, provide the name of the editor and follow it with a comma and the word “editor” (spelled with a lowercase “e”).

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials, Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Title. [Edition.] Place of Publication: Publisher; Date of Publication.

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials, Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Title [Internet]. Place of Publication: Publisher; Date of Publication [Date of Citation]. Availability.

Chapter Author’s Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Chapter Title. In: Book Editor’s Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Book title. Place of Publication: Publisher; Date of Publication. Pagination.

Article in Periodical

In citations to journals and magazines that are published in print (or, in print with an online version), titles are abbreviated. In citations to journals and magazines that are published only online, with no print equivalent, journal titles are not abbreviated.

Use the abbreviations you find in PubMed. If a journal abbreviation is not included in PubMed, follow the rules in the Abbreviation for Journal Titles section of the NLM Style Guide and use the word abbreviations defined in this List of Title Word Abbreviations (LTWA).

It is based on ISO 4, an international standard for the abbreviation of serial titles. If more than one URL can be used to locate the article, provide the URL that you used. If a DOI is provided then place it after the URL.

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials, Surname First-and-Middle Initials. Article Title. Journal Title. Date of Publication; Volume (Issue): Pagination.

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials, Surname First-and-Middle Initials. Article Title. Journal Title [Type of Medium]. Date of Publication [date of citation]; Volume (Issue): Pagination. Availability.

Newspaper Article

Referencing newspaper articles in NLM. Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

In citations to newspaper articles, newspaper titles are not abbreviated. Add the location where a newspaper is published if the newspaper title does not indicate it. Provide section information, if it exists. Include only the beginning page number.

Include any date of update/revision and a date of citation in square brackets following the date of publication. If more than one URL can be used to locate the article, provide the URL that you use.

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Article Title. Newspaper Title [Type of Medium] (Edition). Date of Publication [date of revision, date of citation]: Section; Volume (Issue): Pagination. Availability.


Sometimes it is impossible to determine dates of publication and revision, authorship and/or publishing responsibility. If page numbers are not available, calculate the length of the article using print pages, paragraphs, or screens. Do your best to work with the information provided. It is not sufficient to provide only a URL.

Surname First-and-Middle-Initials. Webpage Title [Internet]. Place of publication: Publisher; Date of Publication [date of revision, date of citation]. Availability.


The NLM Style is not used often and it is quite complex, perhaps more than most referencing styles. Although, it does borrow quite a bit from other medical referencing styles like AMA and Vancouver. That is why we exist. Custom Scholars exists to help you in situations where you might fall short. Your paper should not be rendered subpar because of something you can solve. Let us check your work or do it for you all together.

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