Format Specifications

Remember the Details! Here are tips to assist you in meeting the requirements on font, font size, margins and spacing. Be sure to follow the format in the instructions and label sections as requested. The NIH How to Apply Guide has a Formatting section that has current guidelines.

Typical GuidelinesOverall Considerations

Typical Guidelines


  • Use an Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype or Georgia typeface, a black font color, and a font size of 11 points or larger. A symbol font may be used to insert Greek letters or special characters; the font size requirement still applies.
  • Type density, including characters and spaces, must be no more than 15 characters per inch.
  • Type may be no more than six lines per inch.
  • Use black ink that can be clearly copied.
  • Print must be clear and legible.

Paper Size and Page Margins

  • Use standard paper size (8.5" x 11")
  • Use at least one-half inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right) for all pages, including continuation pages. No information should appear in the margins, including the PD/PI's name and page numbers.

Figures, Graphs, Diagrams, Charts, Tables, Figure Legends, and Footnotes

  • You may use a smaller type size but it must be in a black font color, readily legible, and follow the font typeface requirement. Color can be used in figures; however, all text must be in a black font color, clear and legible.


  • Use English and avoid jargon.
  • If terms are not universally known, spell out the term the first time it is used and note the appropriate abbreviation in parentheses. The abbreviation may be used thereafter.

Page Limits

All applications for NIH funding must be self-contained within specified page limits.

Visit the NIH Table of Page Limits page for a list of page limits.

Overall Considerations

  • Observe application guidelines strictly. 
  • Use basic English and avoid jargon. 
  • Make sure all acronyms are spelled out when used initially. 
  • Observe the type size and page limitations strictly; do not use a small font. 
  • Include only those graphs, tables, etc., that are essential to the narrative; these should complement the text and be appropriately inserted. 
  • Make sure all citations are complete: title, authors, book or journal, volume number, inclusive pages, year of publication. When citing articles that fall under the Public Access Policy, provide the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (e.g., NIHMS97531) or the Pubmed Central (PMC) reference number (e.g., PMCID234567) for each article. Citations that are not covered by the Public Access Policy, but are publicly available in a free, online format may include URLs or PMCID numbers along with the full reference.
  • Include a section on Resource Sharing Plans, including sharing model organisms or genome wide association studies, if appropriate. 
  • Have an outside reader review the proposal for clarity and consistency. 
  • Proofread carefully by reading aloud. Do not rely on computer "spell check" to point out mistakes. 
  • Be consistent with terms, references, and form writing style.