While teaching about the cry genes and the Cry proteins in Biology class, my teacher told us that the names of genes are always written in lowercase and should be italicized, and the name of protein coded by that gene should always start with a capital letter.

Now, while reading the notes taken in the same lectures, I am wondering whether the name of the genes should be underlined while handwriting, as we use to do while writing the biological names; or are there some other rules related to it?

Moreover please tell me that is it really necessary to write the name of a protein (I am talking about every protein) always with a capital letter at start?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you get graded on your notes? They're your notes; if you'll remember the difference between the gene and the protein, write them however you want. I had an extensive shorthand system (10 years of notetaking will do that); no one ever corrected me about my unique symbols. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Actually they are my own notes which I took during the lecture! $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse There are no grades for those notes, but I asked the question for myself knowing the right way! $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ They're your notes. There is no right way or wrong way to take notes. The purpose of notes is to help you remember what was said. Formal writing is different. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Actually, my question is about the formal writing only! Are there any rules for the aforementioned? $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 14:48

1 Answer 1


Handwriting and notes

How you handwrite is totally up to you. No important information in research science is disseminated widely with the use of handwriting anymore; whatever the conventions were, you'd be wise not to care about it one bit.

Nomenclature in scientific research

The nomenclature can be different across fields. In Drosophila genetics, the prescribed norm, which is admittedly not really often followed, is as follows for capitalizing the first letters (contrary to what you were taught):

1.2.2. Selection of lower or upper case of initial letter. Gene symbols/names begin with a lowercase letter if the gene is FIRST named for the phenotype of a recessive mutant allele, and begin with an uppercase letter if they are FIRST named for the phenotype of a dominant mutant allele. Gene symbols/names also begin with an uppercase letter if they are FIRST named for an aspect of the wild-type molecular function or activity of the gene product, which includes genes named after an ortholog or paralog.

Rules of thumb

  • Keep in mind the distinction between nucleic acid and protein; this usually differentiated by formatting (e.g. italics).
  • Keep in mind that macromolecule formatting nomenclature often specifies capitalization (entirely capitalized, first character, if non-first characters are allowed to be capitalized, etc.)
  • Keep in mind the difference between symbol (ID or shorthands) and full gene names.
  • Keep in mind that synonymous gene names and symbols exist for many genes.

The search engine is your friend. This is a good landing page on the topic.


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