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Manuscript Requirements

Updated April 6, 2022

The editorial staff of Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD) uses the AMA Manual of Style, 11th Edition, as our guide to review and revise manuscripts before publication for organization, clarity, accuracy, and style. Please consult this reference book on such matters as usage, nomenclature, punctuation, and other standards and conventions.

Please also consult the Simplified Checklist for New Submissions if you are submitting a new manuscript or the Full Submission Checklist for Revisions After Peer Review. We have listed additional items below – any rules that you follow from the lists below will help to expedite your submission through the peer-review and editorial review processes.

  • Create manuscript in Microsoft Word or save as a .doc or .docx file. Other file extensions are not acceptable.
  • Use 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • Double space every page.
  • Submit figures in a file separate from the text. Do not include the figure title in the figure file. Figure titles and legends should be in the manuscript file after any tables.
  • Include tables with the manuscript document, placing them after the References section. Do not upload tables in a separate document.


Title page

  • Provide the name of the institution where the work was done, if it is different from author’s present institution.
  • Identify clearly the corresponding author and his or her mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
  • Provide separate word counts for the abstract and for the full text.

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PCD usually limits the number of authors to 10; any manuscript with more than 10 authors requires a description of the contributions of each author. PCD permits group authorship for large collaborations. Additional contributions may be attributed in the Acknowledgments section of the manuscript.

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Key words

Provide up to 10 key words; use terms listed in the Medical Subject Headings from Index Medicusexternal icon.

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  • An abstract must be submitted for certain types of articles.
  • Maximum number of words depends on the type of article. See Types of Articles.

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This section identifies sources of financial support for the work being published. If financial support was not received, please state this. In addition, this section lists donors of equipment or supplies, technical assistance, and other important contributions from individuals who do not qualify for authorship. It also includes any statements disclaiming endorsement or approval of any views or products mentioned in the manuscript. The AMA Manual of Style describes contributions commonly recognized in Acknowledgments. Individuals identified in Acknowledgments must provide written consent to be acknowledged; corresponding authors are responsible for obtaining these permissions.

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PCD follows AMA style for references. Please consult the 11th edition of the AMA Manual of Style for detailed guidance and hundreds of examples on how to correctly format references. Before submitting your manuscript, eliminate all coding generated by bibliographic programs (eg, Endnote). See Types of Articles for information on the number of references permitted for each article type.

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Summary Box

In 1 or 2 sentences for each, answer the following: What is already known on this topic? What is added by this report? and What are the implications for public health practice? These answers contain the key public health message, as well as the justification for the publication. Total word limit is 100 words.

PCD does not require a summary box for every article type. The following article types have summary boxes:

  • Implementation Evaluation
  • Program Evaluation Brief
  • Original Research
  • Research Brief
  • Systematic Review
  • Tools for Public Health Practice

The following article types do not have summary boxes:

  • GIS Snapshots
  • Letter
  • Essay

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  • See Types of Articles for information on the number of tables permitted for each article type.
  • Because tables should be clearly understood without reference to the text, titles should include details of place of study, dates of study, and study population (if applicable).
  • Create tables with Microsoft Word’s table tool. Use the “Table Grid” format.
  • Our HTML format does not allow wide tables. Tables should fit into portrait orientation rather than landscape. Use 10-point Times New Roman font. This requirement may call for the reorganization of data.
  • Do not use paragraph returns, tabs, or extra spaces to create tables or align cells. No cell should contain a paragraph return or tab.
  • Each piece of data must be contained in its own cell, except for point estimates and their measures of precision. These data should be combined into 1 cell. For example: “Odds Ratio (95% CI)” or “Mean (SD).”
  • Number tables in the order that they are cited in the text.
  • All abbreviations should be grouped together in one line and placed just below the table, before the footnotes.
  • Because tables should be clearly understood without reference to the text, definitions of special terms should be provided in footnotes.
  • Use superscripted lowercase letters to designate footnotes. Do not use special symbols such as asterisks and daggers.
  • If values are reported, indicate in a footnote the statistical tests used to determine them.
  • If values are reported, report actual P values, not inequalities such as <.01 or <.05. Any value smaller than P = .001 should be reported as <.001.
  • Identify all variables and units of measure in either row or column headings. The unit identified in the column head must apply to all items in that column.
  • Explain with a footnote why numbers may not sum to group totals or why percentages do not total the expected value.
  • If you have an empty cell, indicate with a footnote why the cell is empty (eg, data missing, data not available, does not apply).
  • Publishers of tables included in the manuscript and previously published (or adapted from previously published tables) must provide signed consent to the authors to publish this information in PCD. Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reprint.
  • Consider eliminating or condensing some of your tables. The AMA Manual of Style says, “Although tables frequently are used to present many quantitative values, authors should remember that tabulating all collected study data is unnecessary and actually may distract and overwhelm the reader. Data presented in the table should be pertinent and meaningful.”
  • Consult the AMA Manual of Style for further guidance on how to properly construct a table.

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Figures and figure legends/captions

  • See Types of Articles for information on the number of figures permitted for each article type.
  • When deciding whether to use a table or a figure to present data, consult the AMA Manual of Style for guidance. For example, AMA says, “For quantitative information, a table should be used when the display of exact values is important, whereas a figure (eg, a line or bar graph) should be used to show patterns or trends.”
  • Report primary outcomes or findings in the text and/or tables; primary outcomes should not be represented graphically in figures only.
  • Multicomponent figures are discouraged if the data can be combined into 1 figure. For example, in a bar graph that illustrates prevalence rates over time for 3 age groups, create 1 graph with groups of 3 bars; do not submit separate graphs (A, B, and C) for each age group.
  • Any multicomponent chart or graph must be created in Excel and must include an Excel file for each component.
  • The components of multicomponent figures must be related to each other; creation of multicomponent figures from unrelated items to circumvent PCD’s limit on the number of figures and tables is not acceptable.
  • Never insert a picture of a figure into a Word document. PCD editors and graphic designers cannot edit these items.
  • Submit 2 versions of each figure:
  1. Submit the original figure in the file format in which it was created. In other words, if you created a flow chart in Word, then submit the flow chart as a Word doc; if you created a graph in Excel, then submit the graph as an Excel file, and so on. Failing to submit a figure in the correct format will delay publication of your article. Do not insert an Excel graph into a Word file or a PowerPoint slide. Do not insert a picture into a Word file.
  2. A PDF version of the original figure.
  • Upload the files as separate documents from the main text. Do not insert any figures (eg, graphs, charts) into the main (Microsoft Word) text document.
  • Color as well as black-and-white images are accepted; colors may be changed during the editing process.
  • Figures appear in the order that they are cited in the text.
  • All figures will be edited according to the AMA Manual of Style.
  • These are the file types PCD accepts for graphics:
      • Microsoft Word (flow charts, timelines, logic models, other simple visuals that consist primarily of text). (Note: AMA does not permit pie charts, so we do not accept these.) These figures must be created in Word and submitted as a Word document; content for these figures cannot be pasted into Word from other sources. Ensure that all text can be edited; do not submit text as a picture.
      • Microsoft PowerPoint (flow charts, timelines, logic models, other simple visuals that consist primarily of text). These figures must be created in PowerPoint and submitted as a PowerPoint document; content for these figures cannot be pasted into PowerPoint from other sources.
      • Microsoft Excel (line graph, bar graph). Make sure that the graph is linked to the data used to create it. Do not insert Excel charts or graphs into any other kind of file (eg, PowerPoint, Word) or convert them into other types of files (eg, .jpg, .pdf, .tif). If a figure can be created in Excel, use Excel. PCD editors cannot edit static images created by statistical software packages. Excel files are easy to work with.
      • Adobe Illustrator (.ai file extension) — for charts, graphs, maps, and other complicated visuals.
      • Adobe Encapsulated PostScript (.eps file extension) — for charts, graphs, maps, and other complicated visuals.
      • All maps should be submitted as vector-based files (extensions .ai, .eps) formatted to fit a standard 8.5 x 11–inch portrait layout.
      • Photographs should be submitted as high-resolution .jpg files only.
File Type Accepted
Figure Type File Type Accepted
Graph or chart created in Excel Excel
Multicomponent graph or chart Must be created in Excel and the Excel files submitted
Graph or chart not created in Excel
  • .ai
  • .eps
  • .svg
  • flow chart
  • timeline
  • logic model
  • figure consisting primarily of text and text boxes
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • flow chart
  • timeline
  • logic model
  • figure consisting of text and images
  • .ai
  • .eps
Map or other complicated image Maps should fit a standard 8.5 x 11– inch portrait layout. PCD requires 2 files for each map, selecting from the following formats.

1) Vector:

  • .eps
  • .ai
  • .pdf

Make sure that all fonts are embedded, polygons are converted to vector, and any raster images are set to maximum quality. These options are located in the export menu in ArcGIS.

2) Bitmap:

  • 600-dpi .tif
  • 3,000-px wide .png or .jpg

Make sure that all .jpg are set to maximum quality.

  • High-resolution .jpg


  • Some Mac files may need to be converted into PC format, which is what we work in at PCD. To determine if you need to convert a file, first check the application used to make the figure. If the figure was created using Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Power Point), no conversion is needed. Similarly, no conversion is needed for files created in Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, PDF files), but be sure the Adobe file name includes the correct file extension (for example, .ai, .psd) so it will open on a PC.
  • Write a title and a legend (also known as a caption) for each figure. A legend/caption is the text that follows the figure title. A legend/caption is not a key, so it should not be placed in the graphic itself. Legends/captions describe and clarify the figure; they are written in sentence format and should provide sufficient detail to make the figure comprehensible without reference to the text. Identify the source of the data in the legend/caption; make sure the data source is in the list of references. Place the title and legend/caption as text in the manuscript text document at the very end of the Word document, after tables. Per AMA, legends/captions should not exceed 40 words.
  • Beneath each caption in the manuscript text document, place the alternative text for the visually impaired. This alternative text will appear on a separate web page from the main article. For bar charts, line graphs, and other presentations that can be easily converted to a table format, provide the data in table format. For photographs or other similar illustrations, provide a short text description of the image. For flow charts, logic models, or similar diagrams, provide a text description. Maps can use either a text or tabular description. Please see figures in PCD articles for examples of alternative text.
  • Identify all variables and units of measure.
  • Symbols, letters, and numbers should be clear and legible.
  • Place figure key in the figure.
  • Label x-axis and y-axis clearly and consistently. For examples, see the AMA Manual of Style.
  • Publishers of figures included in the manuscript and previously published (or adapted from previously published figures) must provide signed consent to the authors to publish this information in PCD.  Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reprint.
  • Consult the AMA Manual of Style for further guidance on how to properly construct and present a figure.

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  • PCD discourages the use of appendixes and other supplemental files.
  • Appendixes must be independent documents and should not be used to accommodate information that is essential to the text, additional references, or tables and figures in excess of the number allowed for the article type.
  • For information that is already available online, provide a URL instead of an appendix.
  • PCD technical editors will make the final decision on whether to include supplementary items at the time of publication. Final acceptance of a manuscript for publication does not guarantee publication of the accompanying appendixes and other supplemental files.
  • Appendixes and supplemental files are subject to editing by PCD technical editors.

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P values

  • Report exact numbers for P values (eg, P = .03); do not express P values as inequalities (eg, P < .05).
  • Report P values ≥.01 to 2 digits past the decimal point, regardless of significance (eg, P = .31, P = .04, P = .01).
  • If P < .01, express to three digits past the decimal point.
  • If P < .001, express as P < .001.
  • Do not express P values as numbers with more than 3 decimal places.
  • P values cannot equal 0 or 1.
  • Refer to the AMA Manual of Style for more detailed information on reporting P values correctly.

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Use of first person

We encourage authors to use the pronouns I and we as well as the active voice.

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Verb tense

The past tense is typically used to narrate past events, such as the procedures used to carry out a study. The present tense is used for generally accepted facts, authors’ conclusions, and the conclusions of previous researchers. Generally, most of the Abstract, the Methods section, and the Results section are in past tense, and most of the Introduction and some of the Discussion are in present tense. For a discussion of the proper use of verb tense in scientific publications, please refer to the AMA Manual of Style.

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Do not use footnotes except in tables. Indicate footnotes in tables with superscripted lowercase letters (eg, a, b, c, d).

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The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions.

Page last reviewed: April 6, 2022