Where are the JACS Reference Guidelines?

StumpedAs I was formatting some references, I had to locate the reference guidelines for the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). Wow, that was tough!

If you’re in the same situation, I’ll spare you the time. The guidelines are located
within the ACS Style Guide, and the direct link to the reference chapter (which as of this writing can be accessed free online) is:


If for whatever reason that link does not work, here is the link to the guide in general: http://pubs.acs.org/isbn/9780841239999

It looks like they charge for most chapters, but the reference chapter has sponsored access, so anyone can see it for free.  Getting to that page was not as intuitive as I thought it would be (if you go in through Author Guidelines, there must be a link somewhere, but it was quite roundabout in my experience).

Endnote Issues with JACS Style

As a side note, if you are using EndNote, the program includes acceptable but “less desirable” citation forms (JACS words) in at least three major ways.  Even if you enter your library perfectly, the output will have the following three issues.

1. Does Not Abbreviate Journal Titles

It looks like EndNote outputs journal titles in full but not abbreviated form.  I tested with a couple on Endnote X4 and it was spitting out the full journal name, so I had to abbreviate manually.  Pretty annoying.

If for some reason you are able to get it to spit out the full name, please leave a comment below on how to do so for others. Remember that JACS uses periods with abbreviation titles (so use J. Polym. Sci., not J Polym Sci; see page 294 of the ACS Guide for details and for the exception of when the final word of the title is a full word and not abbreviated).

2. Missing Article Titles

EndNote does not export article titles in JACS style. Although technically you are allowed to do that, page 288 of the JACS guide states, “Article titles are not essential in reference citations, but they are considered desirable to highlight the contents of a paper and facilitate location in reference libraries” (emphasis added). You should include the titles, meaning that you would have to do so manually, or find another style in EndNote that happens to be the same except that includes titles (if someone knows which style that would be, please post here).

3. Missing End Page Number in Page-Number Ranges

When generating a references list in JACS style, EndNote only exports the initial page number for an article, chapter, or other source with a page-number range. Again, although this is technically acceptable in JACS style, it’s not the style preference. Page 296 of the JACS style guide states, “Pagination is an essential element of a reference citation. The complete page range is preferable, but initial page numbers are acceptable” (emphasis added). In the future hopefully EndNote will use the more desirable style rather than the bare-minimum, less desirable style, as defined by JACS itself.

What is JACS’s Exception for “Biochemistry” References?

Throughout chapter 14 of the ACS Guide, there are several parenthetical notes about an “exception” for “Biochemsttry.” For instance, page 291, which discusses the proper reference style for periodicals, states, “The journal Biochemistry is an exception. Consult this journal’s instructions to authors for the correct format.”

At first I thought that JACS was saying to follow JACS style except for citations of articles from the journal Biochemistry, so I went to those author guidelines to take a look (by the way, those guidelines can be found here, and the reference examples are squished into page 13 and are a pain to read). Admittedly, this interpretation seems silly because it would result in some reference entries looking quite different from others in your paper, if you are creating a JACS references list.

In seeming confirmation that my interpretation of JACS’s exception is silly, later in chapter 14 of the JACS guide, there are some examples of Biochemistry articles, and they consistently follow the JACS style, not the Biochemstry style. So, I must be misunderstanding this.  I contacted JACS help–which, to their credit, was answering live-chat questions after 10 p.m. EST! My question was a little beyond the help agent’s knowledge (no slight to him of course, it is above me too!).

What then, is chapter 14 of the JACS guide talking about in those notes about the exceptions? I’m currently at a loss.  I’m guessing it’s more intuitive to someone in the chem field, but it’s not my area so I have contacted the editorial team at JACS and will post what I find out.


UPDATE: Took a couple of weeks but I was able to get a response from the ACS editorial staff on this issue. So, not surprisingly, the guidelines are as follows:

  • If you are preparing a document in JACS style, follow ACS style for all references (no exceptions).
  • If you are preparing a document for the journal Biochemistry, follow that journal’s style.

Although this is certainly the logical interpretation, I think the ACS guide should be updated to clarify this a bit better from the start! Hope that helps anyone else who was as confused as I was!


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Rocky Citro

Hi, my name is Rocky, and I am a technical academic editor with over a decade experience editing for professors and graduate students in prestigious universities. I have also taught writing at the graduate and undergraduate level and have several years' TEFL teaching experience.