Which Journals Still Impose Style Requirements on Initial Submissions?
I didn’t think this happened anymore, but apparently some philosophy journals still reject or decline to consider manuscripts because they don’t conform to the journal’s or publisher’s style requirements.
We’re not talking about length limits or spacing, but things like the use of contractions, citation methods, spelling, formatting of sections, and so on, as discussed in this post from several years ago. There’s no reason not to hold off imposing conformity with these requirements on a piece until after it is accepted, and plenty of reason not to insist that authors, given the situation with philosophy publishing, repeatedly make these superficial-yet-time-consuming alterations each time they submit their manuscript to a new journal. Further, if a journal’s policy is that initial submissions need not conform to their house style, that should be explicit in the journal’s instructions for authors. As I wrote in the earlier post:
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.
As I said, I thought the practice of rejecting or declining to consider manuscripts based on lack of conformity to house style had bit the dust, but a philosophy professor informs me that some journals still insist on it. She asked that such journals be named here as a way to encourage them to alter their policies, and mentioned the following as journals that had recently returned manuscripts of people she knows for not meeting formatting and style requirements: Philosophia, Journal of Ethics, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and The Pluralist. The editors of these journals are welcome to let us know if that is indeed their policy, to explain why it is still in place, or to inform us that it has changed. Readers are asked to share which journals have rejected or declined to consider their submissions because of lack of conformity to house style. (Also, please note that this joke has already been made.)
Style over substance? This is the opposite of true philosophy, which is inner truth not outer appearance. It is uncomfortable reality, not platitudes. It should make you think, not drop off to sleep. It doesn’t conform but seeks originality of thought.Report
Though it doesn’t seem to be a matter of style, I think the journal Faith & Philosophy requires that submissions be made with a Word document (not a pdf) with endnotes. I imagine this may be time consuming for those of us using LaTex.Report
The Journal of the History of Philosophy also requires that submissions be in docx format. This practice should really go away. Like many philosophers, I write in LaTex. It is a huge waste of time to covert a tex file into a clean docx file. What’s the harm in allowing initial submissions to be pdfs?Report
What is LaTex? I guess I could look it up. But my point is that a number of us don’t use LaTex, whatever that is.Report
No one cares what you use. You don’t need to know what LaTeX is or to use it, because it produces beautiful PDFs that presumably you and anyone else involved in reviewing initial submissions is able to read without too much trouble.Report
LaTeX is a free, robust piece of software that integrates typesetting, citation and cross-referencing and many more neat features. As William Diem says, it can produce beautiful PDFs. It is especially useful for those using mathematical equations, but also for typesetting formal logic.
LaTeX is unfortunately fairly inaccessible, though the advent of online editors has seen a big improvement on that front in the last few years. This means that a good way to see what the fuss is all about is to check out an online editor such as https://www.overleaf.com/learn/latex/Learn_LaTeX_in_30_minutesReport
For most documents, converting from Tex to Word takes less than a minute with Pandoc if you’ve written the Tex code correctly in the first place.
It’s true that Pandoc can struggle a bit with the most complicated Tex files, but what could be going into F&P, or JHP, that required any Tex complications?Report
I’m not sure it’s only “the most complicated” TeX files that Pandoc struggles with. Maybe things have changed, but last time I had to prepare a .docx version of a paper I had written in TeX (and this was certainly not a particularly complicated one), I had to spend much more than a minute doing so.
(That said, I appreciated that the journal only asked for it after the paper was accepted, and not before…)Report
And at the risk of evangelizing, for most tasks it’s better to write in markdown and just insert LaTeX code as needed. For all but the most complicated documents, it is quicker and easier to write in markdown anyway, and the conversion from markdown to LaTeX pdf or .docx via pandoc should be more or less seamless.Report
My experience with Faith and Philosophy is that no such requirements are enforced in initial submission.Report
Three of those listed are Springer journals. And I think that Springer, in general, feels a lot more “corporate” and inflexible: a lot of Springer journals, it’s even hard to talk to a “real person” beyond just interacting with the submissions’ platform.
The Pluralist is published by University of Illinois, which also publishes Public Affairs Quarterly–a journal I edited for several years. Neither PAQ nor UI required conformity with any style guide for *submission*, so it’s possible that one is owing to the *editor*.
In general, I’ve also found European journals to be more strict on formatting than American ones, but not sure whether that’s anecdotal or for real.Report
On the fact that European journals are more strict on formatting than American ones, this seems to be true in certain instances, specifically those journals that have some national relevance but they’re not that much read beyond a single country. In my case, Italy, there are a few journals (Paradigmi, Iride, Rivista di Storia della Filosofia, Verifiche) that are extremely fastidious concerning even minute formatting details (they even mandate which font to use)
. I’m pretty sure a couple of them (being acquainted with their EIC) desk reject non-conforming submissions.Report
I just had a manuscript returned at mind because i didnt number the lines. They accepted resubmission though.Report
I’ve submitted to Philosophia fairly recently (2019) and ETMP more recently (2021) and there was no such requirement at the initial stage. APSR (also in 2021) asked me to resubmit a paper in the initial stage with full first names of authors included in the reference list (rather than just initials). Report
Journal of Ethics for me, too. In their defense, they wrote me this:
“I am sorry, you submitted an interesting paper but your submission does not fully comply with our instructions for authors. We want these things fixed beforehand because they caused time and energy consuming problems at the end of the review process. There are (small and somewhat bigger) problems with footnotes, in-text referencing and the reference list.
For that reason, it was not sent to an associate editor. Due to the vast number of submissions to our journal, we can no longer provide authors with a personalized overview of the (small) mistakes made in the lay-out of their manuscript. Please check out the attached file.”
I don’t recall what the “somewhat bigger” issue(s) was. I revised, and they accepted it and sent it to be reviewed. And it was rejected, for not-so-helpful reasons. (Clarification: I later submitted to Theoria and Philosophy, both which gave better comments. Theoria’s, in fact, really made the problem with the paper clear. I still don’t know what to do with it.)Report
I had the same experience with the Journal of Ethics. What was infuriating was that it took them FOUR WEEKS to ask for formatting revisions before they would send the manuscript to an associate editor. That’s four weeks completely wasted on top of an already long review process. Unfortunately, the unhelpful reviews I got two months later didn’t boost my appreciation for the journal.Report
The reason it takes a while is that all initial submissions are evaluated by the editors-in-chief. These weeks are thus not “totally wasted”. The editors in chief need time to read more than one paper a day (as a service to the community). Note: the Journal of Ethics has a very short response time after first submissions, comparatively speaking.Report
I also like to note that you got 4 pages of comments from 2 very helpful reviewers. One of them went through your paper on a page by page base. I find you comments super ungrateful.Report
An EIC releasing comments about the length and quality of referee reports of a paper by a named author, after the fact, in a public forum, presumably without the author’s consent, is a little “yikes,” isn’t it? And can’t someone disagree with an editor’s evaluation of referee report quality of their own work without being “ungrateful”?Report
Yeah, I didn’t find that particularly compassionate. I didn’t name the EIC in my initial complaint (partly because I don’t know if it’s solely their fault).Report
I’m not going to litigate the quality of the referee reports here. They were detailed, yes, that doesn’t mean they were helpful in the way an author might expect from fellow experts. It’s also about interpretive charity, tone, and so on. But that’s incidental to my comment, which is about the formatting requirements. I don’t find that justification convincing. Either that should be a condition at the initial stage, but then that should be requested very promptly by a managing editor, or it should be a condition of acceptance or publication, not an intermediary step that adds friction to the process. (I actually shouldn’t have said the review process was long in this case. 12 weeks from submission to decision is not stellar but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I meant long review process overall given that rejections, revisions, resubmissions and so long all take time.) No harsh feelings here.Report
PS: point taken about four weeks not being totally wasted if they include initial review. That’s not what it appeared like at the time because it sounded like a purely format requirement. I now see that the review process is laid out on the website. I don’t recall seeing that when I submitted (I usually look for that sort of information). Maybe I missed it. In any case that’s a helpful clarification. Like Neil below, I still think that’s an unnecessary complication but at least now it’s no longer opaque.Report
The Journal of Ethics does not impose conditions on initial submissions. You only have to update your lay-out if the submission is put in the review process. That only happens with 33 % of all submissions. 65 % of all submissions is evaluated by the editors-in-chief and desk rejected. That costs time, up to a couple of weeks. Because of this strict initial assessment procedure, we save our editors and reviewers a lot of time. All this is also explained in the letter people get after a submissionReport
I still think this is a bad policy, Wim. Since the majority of those that go into the review process are still rejected, it is a waste of effort to require such formatting. I don’t think journals should have style guides at all (of course papers should be professionally presented and use a standard reference format, but it really doesn’t matter which one). If you disagree, then impose the requirement as a condition of publication, not at a stage of the review process.Report
Agreed- this is why I will never submit to journals such as the Journal of Ethics. Not that they care.Report
What are you calling a style requirement Justin? Here are three things that I don’t know if you’d consider a “style” requirement rather than substantive.
I’d be kind of happy if a journal rejected initial submissions for 1 or 3; 2 is a bit trickier but doesn’t seem like an absurd reason – papers sent to reviewers should be professionally presented, and these inconsistencies aren’t very professional.Report
Of the examples you provide, I think 1 and 2 are reasonable advanced requirements and don’t count as a mere style requirement, as, regardless of house style, a journal will only publish articles with complete citations that are provided in at least an internally consistent format. I think 3 is more like a style requirement but I’m not going to die on that hill.
Here are some of the things I had in mind by style requirements:
1. using one particular citation style over another
2. eliminating all uses of the first person
3. typeface requirements beyond reasonably standard font and font size
4. not allowing sections or subsections, or requiring they be formatted one way or another
5. which logical symbols to use
6. spelling requirements (e.g., British or American English spellings)
7. punctuation requirements
8. rules regarding acronyms, abbreviations, coinages
9. prohibiting footnotes or endnotesReport
I think the principle should be that we don’t make any demands that are irrelevant to the refereeing process. 1 and 3 seem to me potentially relevant. If journal won’t accept a version with long footnotes, a referee would like to see the paper in an acceptable format so I know if the paper reads well (and does not omit important material) or if they need to recommend revisions. Also if they need to check a paper the author cites, it’d be nice to have a clear reference to it. But I don’t see how some but not all papers having DOIs would make a difference for refereeing.Report
I think your principle is plausible. And I suppose it’s plausible that the incorporation into the text of several very lengthy digressions originally in the footnotes could, in some cases, make a difference to whether a referee should recommend acceptance or not—though not usually (refereeing ought not be that fine-grained, I think). So I think you’ve convinced me on 3.Report
Are there really philosophy journals that don’t allow the use of the first person?!Report
If I recall correctly the Journal of Value Inquiry used to have this as a requirement, though I just checked, and it doesn’t now. So perhaps I am misremembering which journal this was, or perhaps they changed their policy.Report
That doesn’t surprise me, given who the editor of that journal was, for many years. Let’s just say that that requirement would have been far from the most annoying thing about him.Report
I recall that editor making huge stylistic changes to a paper of mine, with track changes. I accepted every change. He sent out back with a new raft of changes: yes, he was requiring big changes to be made on the very sentences he had written.Report
Is avoiding excessively long footnotes something that is mentioned in any journal’s style requirements? It seems like a number of papers in prestigious journals have long footnotes.Report
I believe *Mind* requires long footnotes to not be too close together. I do not know of any other journal that explicitly bans long footnotes. But I take it Brian was asking for clarification about the distinction between style and ‘substance’ requirements and not claiming that any journal has this as a style requirement.Report
I think I often have DOIs for some citations and not others. Sometimes, when I’m creating a bibtex entry, I have easy access to the DOI, and other times, I don’t. Since I tend to think more info is better, all else equal, I include the info when I have easy access to it. Since the info isn’t strictly necessary to find the paper, I don’t spend a ton of time chasing down the DOI when I don’t have easy access to it.
I didn’t realize this would be seen as unprofessional. I also have a hard time seeing the benefits of a professional norm like this. If I were to accept this professional norm, I would likely never include DOIs, just to save myself the trouble of tracking them down in cases where they’re not readily available. Since I think it’s a good thing to have more info about how to locate the paper, all else equal, this strikes me as a bad outcome, and so it strikes me as a bad professional norm. I can see the virtue of always requiring DOIs, but I have a harder time seeing the virtue of consistency as such.Report
At least this is an easy one to deal with, or at least it is if you use biblatex:
I think it’s just weird to have bibliographies that are non-standard. I could figure out most book details without the publisher, but I’d find it very weird to have publishers listed for half the books and not the other half. Having DOIs listed for half the things seems equally weird.Report
The other reason for having consistent bibliographies is that they are read in the first instance by machines, not people. It’s very useful for many reasons to have accurate lists of what cites what. The more consistent (and more accurate) the bibliographies are, the more reliable the machines will be at generating those lists.Report
Classical Quarterly did this to me just yesterday. My reference list was rejected automatically; they asked that I put all the biblio info into the footnotes. B/c I’m old(er) and secure(r) now, I said, no thanks and sent the paper elsewhere.
(I made a meme of it, which I posted on FB earlier today.)Report
This was my experience at Classical Quarterly a couple of years ago too. I immediately changed my plans for the article when they told me this.Report
As a PhD student, I didn’t know that places didn’t enforce this. Moreover, the fact that it is standard practice to submit manuscripts without editing it to conform with the required style is a bit “mind-blowing”.
If it’s not required, why do they say it’s required? And why would you waste authors’ time by saying that it is?Report
On the equivalent of the “guide for authors” page, most philosophy journals now explicitly state that they don’t require papers to be in the journal style for the initial submission.
That is: I think it’s fair to say that the “standard practice” is in line with what the journals themselves usually require. (Or at least has become so recently. I feel like this is an area where many journals have gotten more explicit in the last 5 years.)Report
I believe Philosophical Review retains this kind of submission policyReport
“There’s no reason not to hold off imposing conformity with these requirements on a piece until after it is accepted …”
I agree, but it leads me to wonder: What, really, is the justification for imposing conformity *after* the paper is accepted? I know that most journals officially care about this. I don’t really understand why they do.
Is it simply that conformity looks prettier in print? Given that no one reads a journal from cover to cover in print anymore, that shouldn’t count for much. Is it typesetting issues? But for most stylistic guideline items (abbreviations, punctuation etc), deviations won’t have any typesetting impacts. And although there are (weak) justifications behind the various citation styles: those justifications are tied to what information readers typically need … and in philosophy, one imagines that thiswould vary with what kind of paper it is: Why impose conformity at the level of journals?
I emphasize to students that it is important to follow the journal guidelines, since otherwise their papers will be rejected. My chain of reasons sort of stops there, though.
(That said, a lot of journals don’t seem to care that much in practice either, at least not consistently: even reference lists in published papers often deviate significantly from the explicit requirements in the journal guidelines.)Report
Conformity makes it easier for people to find the relevant information. Anyone who’s done any academic copy editing will tell you that academics really, really suck at citing properly. And I don’t just mean misplacing commas and the like; they’ll omit important information like titles, page numbers, journals, etc., and do so inconsistently, they’ll refer to stuff in the text and never include the citation at all (not just by accident–I’ve seen entire manuscripts with no citations whatsoever, but lots of direct quotes, attributions, references to people and their work, etc.), get the paper titles or dates wrong, and so on. Senior faculty at R1 institutions with grant money, in particular, have a noticeable tendency to just send in whatever and use copy editors as some kind of RA.
Unfortunately, you can’t rely on people to just use whatever style suits them, because the result pretty much never conforms to any style at all.Report
Journal of the History of Ideas requires conformity to house style upon initial submission, in my experience.Report
It doesn’t matter what the policy is at Taylor and Francis: the paper won’t reach the journal unless it is formatted to the satisfaction of the central editorial office. I’ve had multiple papers sent back for such sins as having only one abstact. The editors may be unaware of this ….stuff – it all happens prior to their being aware of the paper’s existence.Report
Having only one abstract? How many abstracts do they need? And are you talking about the same abstract reproduced in different places, or two different abstracts? This does remind me of a recent experience I had with Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. During the submission process, there was a box to type in the abstract. Then the submission was returned because the document with the actual paper didn’t also contain an abstract. Is this what you are talking about? As I recall, there were a bunch of other small silly hoops they made me jump through as well. My only other experience with that journal, many years ago, was similarly annoying, but that was at the editing stage.Report
Actually, now I come to recall the details they wanted three abstracts and I only provided two. I provided a title page with abstract and the same abstract typed into the box at submission. They rejected it because they wanted a third copy on the first page of the article too. This ensures that the referee will get two copies of the abstract rather than just one (which would only confuse them, I guess).
This happened to me twice: Phil Psych and Inquiry. Both are journals I like, run by editorial teams I respect. But the editorial teams seem powerless to prevent this nonsense.Report
Philosophers are tedious, pretentious, cronish and belong in the great library basement of Diogenes’ barrel. Dilletantes ad extremum and “scholarly ixen” (as Nietzsche said)Report
This is definitely the most on-topic contribution here.Report
Most philosophers I know aren’t nearly tedious and pretentious enough to quote Nietzsche. And all the crones I’ve known have been very interesting and down to earth.Report
Where is my comment?Report
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice returned my paper to me to resubmit, requiring the following:
1. Conflict of Interest Statement must be included in the main manuscript text, before references section.
2. Abstract and keywords must be included in the main manuscript text.Report
That seems reasonable, and entirely unlike the onerous style requirements under discussion.Report
I hope that the word “impression” would not antagonise your advice about
I think there is unwanted and financially expensive “misunderstanding “in the whole system which can be operated in a more -based on rules- spirit.
It could be calculated economicly whether an existing system in whole spends more money under the existing regulations?
Or the whole system would try to improve communications between authors, referees and publishers…to avoid unnecessary bitterness in the whole system???
Maybe some journal editors think that the work submitted to their journal is written by professional philosophers, thus the default case is that the papers will be accepted after two other professional philosophers give a quick quality check (peer-review). If that is the case then asking authors to polish their paper and use the journal’s style does not seem unreasonable – after all the authors have selected that particular journal to submit in the first place and the authors want to see their work published in that journal.
Perhaps these journal editors are not aware that the authors have not submitted their work specifically to that particular journal, instead, they have tried X number of journals before and will be trying Y number of journals after this since even though they are brilliant philosophers and trained professionals their work will be rejected from journals because of ridiculous reasons (such as “I cannot find room for your paper in our limited number of pages. We simply have to reject many papers that are very good papers.”)
So again, the problem is high-rejection rates?
Slightly off-topic, but isn’t there something seriously wrong if good, even brilliant, papers get rejected because there is no room to publish them (even when almost everything is published online nowadays)? Or isn’t there something seriously wrong in the training of philosophers if most professional scholars in our field are unable to publish their work without rejections? Imagine if midwives would do their jobs with the odds that it is more likely that the baby would die than survive in childbirth, surely we would think there must be something wrong with their training, they should be able to do a better job!Report
Anecdotally, I have never received rejections worded like that or making me think that it’s not me, it’s them. Every rejection seems to want to make it very clear that my manuscript is not brilliant 🙂Report
In my admittedly-limited understanding of childbirth, if the baby dies during childbirth then you can’t attempt labor again with a new midwife. This seems to be an important disanalogy.Report
You misunderstood the analogy. Philosopher = midwife. Journal = pregnant woman. Writing a journal article = delivering a baby to the world.Report
My direct experience of giving birth and of writing and successfully publishing philosophy journal articles suggests this analogy is nonsense.Report
I’ve thought about this for like 90 seconds straight and I’m still struggling … Philosopher as midwife, ok, and writing a journal article is delivering the baby, maybe, but the journal is the pregnant woman … I give up.Report
Don’t worry. I did not use more than 90 seconds to create the analogy so maybe it is not a good one. The point was that if philosophers who do philosophical research for a living are unable to publish their work in important journals then there is either something wrong with the publication system or training of those philosophers. Possible both.Report
Perhaps – but his point about the disanalogy stands. As the midwife/philosopher, you can easily try to deliver another baby at a different journal.Report
I mean, you can always ask the midwife out for coffee later and see where that leads.Report
Many journals apply procedures that I would simply call “annoying”. For example, a requirement of Word-files for review makes no sense. I really do not understand this requirement, since it increases the risk that something is badly converted when editorial systems such as manuscriptcentral or editorialmanager creates PDF-versions for peer-review.
The most annoying is probably journals using Taylor and Francis own manuscript system. You must upload both an anonymous and a de-anonymized version of the manuscript. Moreover, since the latter must include your acknowledgement they also require that you to ask anyone listed in your acknowledgement for permission prior to review.
All of this seems like a standard not well-adapted standard for the high rejection rate for most high quality philosophy journals.
However, I think the interesting discussion is not about which journals that have these annoying practices, but which practices that are acceptable. I would think that the following are acceptable (for review):
I would think adding, for example, a “Conflict of Interest” statement is unnecessary, since this is information that can be added from the submission system.Report
The Journal of Ethics does not impose requirements on initial submissions. It only imposes these conditions on submissions it allows into the review process (33% of all submissions generally speaking. These requirements are needed at that stage because otherwise the editors in chief and the author (!) will get into a very cumbersome lay out process in the proofreading phase. Why not check information before you post it. Seems a good idea to meReport
Contributed to Philosophy and Public Affairs are explicitly told papers “may be submitted without journal-specific formatting”. But I just had a paper unsubmitted for not using the right reference style.Report