AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

American Journal of Physics
Manuscript Format Policies

This page describes how to format a manuscript for submission to AJP. Be sure to also read the submission requirements and procedures.

Electronic File Formats

  • For initial submissions we require a single .pdf file containing all text, endnotes, figures, and tables.  You may use any software you like to prepare this file, but to avoid extensive reworking later on, we strongly suggest that you use LaTeX/REVTeX or Microsoft Word, as described below. The ability to create a .pdf file is built into the Macintosh operating system and is also available in most LaTeX processors and in recent versions of MSWord. For advice on creating a .pdf in older software environments, see https://editorialexpress.com/e-editor/pdftips.html. If at all possible, your .pdf file should be no larger than one megabyte in size.

  • The editors will ask you to submit an editable manuscript file if and when your manuscript is conditionally accepted.  We currently accept editable manuscript files in two formats:

    • The preferred editable format is LaTeX, using the REVTeX 4.1 style. For typical article submissions with many equations and/or endnotes, LaTeX/REVTeX is strongly recommended because it handles most of the formatting and numbering automatically.  It also handles equations extremely well, making them easy to enter and producing beautiful typeset output.  LaTeX is free software, available for all major operating systems.  See the LaTeX web site for links and downloading instructions. We recommend that you get a “complete TeX installation,” which will include the REVTeX 4.1 style and all needed fonts, packages, and GUI tools. Alternatively, you may wish to try a cloud-based LaTeX processor such as writeLaTeX or ShareLaTeX. For a tutorial on using LaTeX, see our sample manuscript file.

    • The only acceptable alternative to LaTeX is Microsoft Word .doc format (not .docx). Authors using MSWord will have to pay especially careful attention to the detailed formatting instructions below.  Do not use the “track changes” feature of MSWord.  Be sure to use only the built-in MSWord equation editor, and use only standard fonts. We do not recommend MSWord for papers that contain many equations or long reference lists. However, for manuscripts that are especially short and simple, MSWord may be more convenient than LaTeX.

  • The appropriate format for figures depends on their content and on whether they are part of an initial submission or an editable package for production.  See our detailed instructions for figure preparation.

Sample Manuscript File

Please download and study our sample manuscript file.  It is a tutorial and template for using LaTeX/REVTeX to prepare a manuscript for AJP.  Even if you’re using MSWord instead of LaTeX, though, the sample file shows what a correctly formatted AJP manuscript should look like.

The sample file is actually a .zip archive containing a LaTeX source file, two figure files, and a finished .pdf file.

General Style

The Style Manual of the American Institute of Physics, 4th ed. (1990) contains a wealth of information on the preparation of manuscripts, including advice on good writing and organization; rules for punctuation, capitalization, English usage, and using mathematical expressions; and lists of standard spellings and abbreviations.  Authors are strongly encouraged to download and study the Style Manual.  Advancing technology has made some parts of this document out of date, while a few of its rules are superseded by AJP's special style conventions. Still, the Style Manual is the authoritative reference unless there is a conflict with information appearing on the AJP website, in which case the latter takes precedence.

Like other journals published in the U.S., AJP uses American rather than British spellings: color rather than colour; analyze rather than analyse; and so on.

Authors are encouraged to use SI units, but use of SI units is not mandatory if other units are more appropriate.

Authors are expected to word their manuscripts in a manner consistent with the fact that the physicists, students, and teachers who read AJP include both women and men.


Manuscripts should be double-spaced (approximately 3 lines/inch), using a standard 12-point serif font such as Times New Roman.  Margins of at least one inch width should be left on the top, sides, and bottom.  All manuscript pages should be numbered.


Authors should make every effort to be concise.  Generally speaking, readership and length are inversely related.  The average AJP paper consists of 4000 to 5000 words, plus equations, tables, and figures if appropriate.  Shorter manuscripts are encouraged.  Longer manuscripts will be subject to higher expectations with respect to the interest and usefulness of their content during the review process.  Manuscripts intended for the Notes and Discussions section should be considerably shorter, typically 1000 to 1500 words.


The main elements of an AJP paper are as follows, in this order:

  • Title
  • Authors and affiliations
  • Abstract (optional for the Notes and Discussions section)
  • Introductory section
  • Main body, divided into sections and subsections as appropriate
  • Concluding section (optional)
  • Appendices, if necessary
  • Acknowledgments
  • Endnotes

Most papers also contain figures and/or tables (with captions), which “float” outside the sequential order of the main text so they can be placed at the top or bottom of a final printed page.  In your initially submitted manuscript, place each figure or table near where it is first referenced, without assuming that it will stay in that exact location when the paper is published.

If you wish to remain anonymous to reviewers, you may omit author name(s) and affiliation(s) from your initially submitted manuscript.  (You must still provide this information to the editor, via the manuscript submission form.)  If and when your manuscript is conditionally accepted, be sure to include name(s) and affiliation(s) in your editable manuscript file.

Please refer to the sample manuscript for the correct typographical and numbering conventions for each of these elements.  LaTeX/REVTeX will take care of these conventions automatically.  If you use MSWord, following the right conventions is your responsibility.


The abstract should summarize the paper’s contents as concisely as possible. It should make the goals of the paper clear, and state the main results or conclusions directly (not merely allude to them vaguely). The abstract should be written so that any physicist, regardless of area of specialization, can read and understand it.

Abstracts must be self-contained. They may not contain references to endnotes.

Abstracts are optional in the Notes and Discussions section, but are encouraged for Notes longer than 1000 words.


A paper’s introductory section must provide the background and context that a typical physicist, regardless of area of specialization, would need in order to understand the paper’s purpose and importance.  That is, it should motivate the paper, in a way that is both informative and inviting.  Unlike the abstract, the introduction need not summarize the entire paper or state its main results.  Often, however, the introduction ends with a paragraph that outlines how the rest of the paper is organized; this is especially useful for longer papers.


Mathematical symbols require special typography, such as putting letters in italics and distinguishing minus signs from hyphens. LaTeX math mode takes care of this typography automatically, but MSWord users will have to make a special effort. For all but the simplest expressions, MSWord users should use the built-in MSWord equation editor. Do not use any other equation editor, and be sure to use only standard fonts.

When an equation is important and/or tall and/or complicated, display it on a line by itself, with a number (in parentheses) at the right margin.  (In LaTeX, just use the equation environment.) Every equation, whether diplayed or not, must be part of a complete sentence, with correct punctuation before and after.  See the sample manuscript file for examples.

When referring to an equation by number, put the number in parentheses and abbreviate “Eq.” unless it is at the beginning of a sentence:  “Equation (5) follows from substituting Eqs. (2) and (3) into Eq. (4).”


Please refer to our detailed instructions for figure preparation.

Number figures in the order in which they are referred to in the text.  Provide an appropriate and concise caption for each figure.  When referring to a figure, abbreviate “Fig.” unless it is at the beginning of a sentence:  “Figure 5 shows the results of the new analysis in the same format as Fig. 4.”


Number tables using Roman numerals, in the order in which they are referred to in the text. Provide an appropriate and concise caption for each table.  In your initial submission, place each table as close as possible to the text that refers to it.  If and when you are asked to submit an editable manuscript file, move the tables to the end, after the endnotes, but before the figure captions.


A concluding section is customary but not required.  A good conclusion provides additional insights—not mere repetition of what you’ve already said.


Use appendices for material that is less interesting than the rest of the paper but still needed for completeness.  Examples might include a technical proof, or a detailed description of research protocols. If there is more than one appendix, label them with capital letters A, B, and so on.


Be sure to acknowledge colleagues who contributed in a significant way to your paper, as well as any funding agencies that supported your work. While it is not appropriate to acknowledge the assistance of the editors, it is often appropriate to acknowledge specific help and advice from our generous, conscientious, and anonymous reviewers.  Examples of specific help are suggestions for references, pointing out significant errors, and suggesting better ways of doing calculations or experiments.

Endnotes and Citations

AJP does not use footnotes, which appear at the bottom of a page; instead, AJP uses endnotes. Endnotes may include auxiliary author information, literature citations, and explanatory annotations.

Endnotes must be grouped together at the end of the manuscript, in the same sequence in which they are first referenced in the body of the manuscript.

Auxiliary author information, such as email addresses, should be listed at the beginning of the endnote section using superscripted lower-case Latin letters followed by right parentheses (e.g., c) ). Place an identical symbol immediately after the name of the author to whom the information applies. (LaTeX/REVTeX will use different symbols, which are automatically converted to the correct form during production.)

All other endnotes use superscripted numbers (e.g., 3 ).  To avoid ambiguity, place superscripts where they won’t be mistaken for mathematical exponents.

Within the body of the manuscript, references to endnotes should appear as superscripts placed after any punctuation:

  • Correct: as shown by Einstein.3
  • Incorrect: as shown by Einstein3.
References can also appear as “online citations,” for example, “. . . as shown by Eq. (5) in Ref. 3, . . . ”

Endnotes may refer to each other (usually using an online citation as above), but may not introduce any new endnotes.

The abstract may not contain references to endnotes.

Format of Literature References

Endnote references to articles in periodicals should have the following form:


Freeman J. Dyson, “Feynman's proof of the Maxwell equations,”     Am. J. Phys. 58 (3), 209–211 (1990).


Note that unlike many journals, AJP requires that each article reference include the article title and its ending (as well as beginning) page number. Use of the issue number is encouraged but not required unless the periodical is paginated by issue (for example, Physics Today). See the AIP Style Manual for a list of standard periodical abbreviations.

An endnote reference to a book should have the following form (include page number or numbers when appropriate):


David J. Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics, 2nd edition     (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1989), pp. 331–334.


Example of an article in an edited volume:


M. R. Flannery, “Elastic scattering,” in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Handbook,     edited by G. W. F. Drake (AIP Press, New York, 1996), p. 520.


In all book and article references, pay special attention to the use and placement of punctuation. Note that article titles are in quotes, while book titles are in italics. List authors’ names in the format “Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie” when there are two authors, or “Harvey Gould, Jan Tobochnik, and Wolfgang Christian” when there are three or more.  If there are four or more authors  you may use the form “William H. Press et al.

References to online material should include a brief description and/or title and the URL enclosed in angle brackets:


Formatting information is available in the “Contributor Resources” section of the American Journal of     Physics Web site, <http://ajp.dickinson.edu/>.


For a reference to material that has not been published in print or online, provide as much information as possible and include “(unpublished)” in the citation.  See the AIP Style Manual for examples.

Supplementary Material

If your manuscript relies on supporting material that is too lengthy to appear in the published paper, you should submit that material for archiving by the AIP Electronic Physics Auxiliary Publication Service (EPAPS).  Examples of appropriate EPAPS material include large data tables, additional figures, computer programs, and multimedia files.

For your initial submission, upload the EPAPS material to a public web site of your choice. Use an endnote to cite this material, providing your (temporary) URL for the benefit of reviewers.

When you later submit your production-ready editable manuscript, replace the temporary URL in your citation to say “[URL will be inserted by AIP].” Put all supplementary materials, and a plain-text readme.txt file that describes them, into a single folder (with no subfolders) with a name of the form “AuthorNameEPAPS,” and include this folder in the .zip archive with your editable manuscript (and any figure files).  There is currently a 100 MB limit on uploads via the AJP submission page, so please consult the editor if you wish to submit supplementary materials that are larger than this.

See the AIP EPAPS Web site for further information and examples.

Online Multimedia

For supplemental audio and video files, an alternative to EPAPS is to have the multimedia material linked to a figure in the online version of your article.  To do this, create a figure with a caption, numbered in sequence with any other figures, for each multimedia file.  The figure content should be a still image from the video, or any small, reasonable placeholder image for audio.  As with EPAPS material, upload the multimedia file to a public Web site of your choice, for the benefit of reviewers.  Write the figure caption to say “enhanced online,” with a link to your temporary URL, in your submitted .pdf manuscript.  When you later submit your production-ready editable manuscript, replace the temporary link with “[URL will be inserted by AIP]” and include the multimedia file in your .zip package. Please consult the AIP guidelines for details on acceptable file formats and sizes.