A Question About Journals’ Style Requirements

Dear Journal Editors,

On behalf of those submitting articles to your journals, I write with a question about your house style requirements.We work in an era of publish or perish, in which the acceptance rates of many journals is in the single digits. This often means that in the scramble for jobs, tenure, and promotion, articles get submitted, rejected, and then sent to another journal—many times over.

Editors, your journals differ in many regards, including style: how works are to be cited, whether endnotes or footnotes are to be used, whether the first-person pronoun is permissible, how sections are to be titled or numbered or lettered or not, whether idiosyncratic acronyms should be avoided, whether ending commas and periods are placed inside or outside quotation marks, whether said quotation marks are single or double, whether we should approach this panoply of requirements with good humor or good humour, and so on, etc. (if abbreviations are allowed).

We respect your preferences, and we welcome the resulting diversity of stylistic offerings available to readers of philosophy.


Must we conform to your stylistic requirements in our initially submitted manuscripts? Must we take the time to reformat our papers for every possible desk rejection? We can’t help but feel that that is a waste of time. Wouldn’t it be sufficient to wait until after the paper is accepted to require its author to make the necessary stylistic adjustments?

Many of us, we’ll admit, already engage in the practice of ignoring style guidelines on initial submissions. But that is a luxury afforded largely to those for whom the timeliness of an article’s acceptance may not be that important, e.g., those with secure, tenured employment. Those who need a publication soon—for the job market or for tenure, say—are less likely to take this risk. It would be good for them to know whether they are wasting their time.

We are open to the possibility that there is some crucial piece of information that would make the requirement that initial manuscript submissions conform to a journal’s in-house style sensible. If there is such information, please share it with us. Otherwise, please change your policy, and make that change explicit in your author guidelines.

Thank you!

Backspace key in the wild


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