Report Format Style & Guidance

Most common report formatting issues that authors of new reports inquire about are below. Working examples and additional information concerning most of these topics are also provided in our downloadable document templates.

Click to expand and contract panels. Expand All / Collapse All

Manuscript Format & Style Guides/Manuals

NRPM Document Templates

Provide working examples of the format and layout requirements, and suggestions for most common report elements, as outlined in the Instructions to Authors manual below. Templates are available in MS Word and the more polished Adobe InDesign platforms.

A vast majority of authors and editors only need to use the document templates to generate new reports.

Why Use One of Our Document Templates?

  • They are fully supported by the NRPM support team (format and layout issues, software bugs, etc.).
  • The working format and layout examples, and related guidance, built into the templates can save you a lot of time and effort. How? The templates:
    • Use techniques that are proven, relatively stable, and easy to manage.
    • Help you avoid many of the common software bugs that we see (mostly concerning MS Word and related export from MS Word to Adobe Acrobat).
    • Help you avoid wasting time repeatedly reformatting elements that are regularly re-set to the software default settings during the writing and editing process.
  • Always contain the most current official NPS graphic identity and NPS/DOI publication policy language.
  • We only provide limited support for reports that significantly deviate from our template standards (use different fonts, layout schemes, etc.).

Instructions to Authors Version 3.1

Is currently under revision. Please refer to the document templates for up-to-date information.

The manual was written as a detailed reference for professional editors and print shops (year 2006 era printing and software standards), and to satisfy our initial agreements with NPS publication policy regulatory offices during the early stages of creating these report series.

Which Report Template Software Platform (MS Word or Adobe InDesign)?

MS Word templates are suggested:

  • For reports that will primarily be distributed to the public digitally (online, email, etc.).
  • Whenever the authors and/or editors of the final report are not NPS employees.
  • Whenever you do not have access to a NPS employee that:
    • Has experience working with Adobe InDesign
    • Preferably works on the final layout for ten or more NRR and NRDS reports each year using Adobe InDesign.

Note: since 2010, about 93% of all published reports were generated using MS Word.

Adobe InDesign templates are suggested for:

  • Reports with a significant print distribution to the public (typically when more than 50 printed copies will be distributed outside the NPS).
  • Reports that include more complicated and/or sophisticated layout elements (two-column text layouts, text wrapping around numerous graphics and/or tables, etc.)
  • NPS employees that:
    • Have experience working with Adobe InDesign to generate documents that meet NPS publication policy standards.
    • Preferably work on the final layout for ten or more NRR and NRDS reports each year using Adobe InDesign.

Note: since 2010, about 7% of all published reports were generated using Adobe InDesign.

Pagination Rules for Major Chapters (first order headings)
  • If the previous chapter occupied one or more pages, the first order heading for the next major chapter should always begin at the top of a new page.
    • For reports designed primarily to be viewed via computer display, the next new chapter may begin at the top of any new page.
    • For reports that are designed specifically for print, the next new chapter should always begin at the top of a new, right-hand, and odd-numbered page.
      • Procedural documents such as Protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should always follow this rule.
      • This rule insures that:
        • New major chapters always face the reader when leafing through a paper copy of the report.
        • It is easier to manually separate printed chapters, appendices, SOPs, etc. (new chapters, appendices, and/or SOPs always begin on a new piece of paper).
      • To make this happen, you will sometimes need to add a page between the previous chapter and the next one. You have two options with the added pages.
        • Adding a completely blank page before the new first order heading. Blank pages should be completely blank, and you need to delete all page headers, footers, page numbers, etc.
        • Adding filler to the extra page, such photographs, figures, tables etc. You do not need to delete things like page headers or footers from "filler" pages.
  • You may have multiple first order headings on the same page of any report, as long as the first one begins at the top of a new page.
  • Working examples and guidance for doing this are built into our MS Word and Adobe InDesign templates.
Page Number Position on Landscape Oriented Pages

If the report is designed for online use, you may use the default MS Word placement for page numbers (located at the bottom center of the page).

If a significant number of reports will be printed (more formal reports, protocols, SOPs, etc.), the page numbers on landscape pages should be placed on the left/short page margin. This insures that all page numbers will print in the same location. Working examples and guidance for doing this are built into our MS Word and Adobe InDesign templates.

Page Numbering Schemes for Appendices (or Appendixes) & Standard Operating Procedures

Page numbers for appendices should remain in the same margin locations as with the rest of the report. It is often easier to just continue numbering your pages with the rest of the report, but you can use an alternative page numbering convention if you wish.

Custom page numbering schemes are especially useful for appendices and SOPs that are designed to be printed and used as stand-alone documents (e.g., A.1 through A.10, SOP1-1 through SOP1-13, etc.). We do recommend that you remain consistent when numbering pages across all appendices and SOPs in a report.

Working examples of appendices and SOPs with custom page numbering schemes can be seen in our MS Word and Adobe InDesign document templates.

Editing Rules for Previously Published Reports (report versioning rules)

Edits to published NRR and NRDS reports are restricted, and especially after reports have been made available to the public in any way (e.g., physical copies sent, digital copies distributed by email, report posted for download on any public-facing website,including the IRMA Data Store).


  • These are generally-accepted publication standards that are used by private and government publishing entities.
  • Once a publication has been made available, it may be used as a basis for any number of decisions or actions. If decisions or actions are questioned, access to the original document, verbatim, is necessary. Modifying a publicly-released document without modifying the associated unique identification of the document (e.g., title, date, series number), can expose NPS to legal challenge.

If at all possible, we suggest that authors accept mistakes in layout or presentation. However, if errors are egregious or allow misinterpretation of a report's data or conclusions, see the sub-panels below for more information on how to proceed.

Editing Simple Typos and Graphic Export Errors in Previously Published Reports

After you have released a published report to the public in any way (see above), simple typos and graphic export errors are the only items that can be changed or updated in that report.

  • Basic rules for typos:
    • Only edit or update individual words in the report (spelling errors, removing duplicate words, etc.).
    • Does not include typos associated with numeric values or calculation errors.
    • Updates cannot change the line, paragraph, or page number for any sentence, figure, table, or graphic in the report.
  • Basic rules for replacing "broken" graphics in the final PDF.
    • Only replace images that were obviously exported incorrectly to PDF format (blurry, scrambled, blank, etc.).
    • Use as close a version to the original graphic as is possible.
      • Do not make design changes to the original graphic (dimensions, fonts, etc.).
      • Do not change any numeric values presented in the original graphic.
      • Updates cannot change the line, paragraph, or page number for any sentence, figure, table, or graphic in the report.
All Other Edits & Updates in Previously Published Reports

After a report in this series has been released to the public in any way (see above); any edits that add, subtract, or replace any report content (individual words, sentences, figures, numeric values, pages, etc.); leave you with two basic options:

  1. Publish a separate addendum or errata document. If you choose this option, you must:
    1. Ensure the addendum or errata document includes just the content that deviates from the original document, and reference the title of the report and the section to which it applies.
    2. Attach the addendum or errata to the original report. There are two options to accomplish this.
      1. Insert the addendum or errata at the beginning of the existing PDF version of the report (the page immediately following the inside title page).
      2. Combine the addendum or errata and the original PDF version into an individual zip file. Ensure that the addendum or errata PDF is clearly named as such.
    3. Inactivate the original PDF holding in the IRMA Data Store.
    4. Upload and activate the new holding in the IRMA Data Store
    5. Contact the publication series manager (Fagan Johnson) and let him know of the change so that associated links and websites can be updated.
    • OR
  2. Publish a new version of the report, with a new and distinct NRR or NRDS report number, TIC number, and IRMA Data Store record ID.
    1. Add a report subtitle to clearly differentiate it from the original report (e.g., Revised March, 2013.)
    2. Ensure the Peer Review Manager approves the changes. This should be just a quick review of the original peer review process and approval of the changes.
    3. Complete a new Manuscript Submittal Form and Checklist that denotes the changes from the original, marks the approval of the Peer Review Manager, etc.
    4. The newer version of the report will be held to the current NPS publication policy standards (graphic identity, official disclaimer language wording, etc.).
    5. Use the IRMA Data Store versioning tool to ensure the new report is properly entered as a new version of the older report. This will redirect users from the old reference to the newer and preferred one. Learn More »
Last Updated: December 22, 2016 Contact Webmaster