Reformatting a Rejected Academic or Scientific Manuscript
Academic and scientific manuscripts are rejected by the acquisitions editors of scholarly presses and journals for a wide variety of reasons. Of these a failure to format a document exactly as a publisher indicates in the author instructions or editorial guidelines it provides is among the most common. Fortunately, incorrect formatting is also one of the most straightforward of manuscript problems to resolve, but the solution does tend to take a considerable amount of time and requires exactitude and perfectionism in dealing with a great many details.
The first thing to determine when faced with a rejection based on inappropriate formatting is to determine exactly what is meant by the words ‘format’ and ‘formatting,’ if they appear, or by any similar terms that may have been used to describe the problem. Strictly speaking, the format or formatting of a manuscript refers to the layout of text on the page (spacing, margins etc.), the structure of the text (sections, headings etc.) and the design of any tables and figures included (rules, labels etc.). However, these terms often refer to far more than simple layout and can include all the editorial styles and details indicated in a journal’s or press’s guidelines, from the placement of commas to the overall organisation of the manuscript. If no specific examples of the problems have been cited by an acquisitions editor or other representative of the publisher, earning reconsideration will begin with returning to those guidelines and determining what you have formatted incorrectly before you revise your manuscript.
You may discover that part of the problem is a certain lack of clarity or consistency in the guidelines themselves. Unfortunately, this can occur even in the guidelines of the most respected publishers, and the anomalies must simply be negotiated. Let us say, for the sake of discussion, that it is unclear whether a colon or a semicolon should be used in a particular location in bibliographical references – the instructions say ‘colon,’ but the examples show ‘semicolon.’ If what you have done has been pointed out as incorrect in the feedback you received, the solution is straightforward – choose the other option. If one option is better for your work, you might want to adopt it, but to move ahead on more certain ground you could consult recent publications by the press or journal to see which has been preferred. Alternatively, you can ask, including your question in the message you send to inform the editor that you have returned to the guidelines and are busy reformatting your manuscript for resubmission.
If you have received any specific comments regarding the problems detected in your formatting, pat yourself on the back. Yes, I meant that. An acquisitions editor who bothers to give you details about formatting problems, particularly if their solution can be found in the publisher’s guidelines or other available information for authors, is interested in your work. You should proceed accordingly. Carefully analyse the feedback you have received and ensure that you understand what is problematic and have a clear view of how to resolve the issues. You can then write to the editor thanking him or her for the helpful input, perhaps apologising for your neglect of any guidelines that should have been better observe
d, and explaining that you are currently resolving the problems and will be resubmitting your paper by a certain date (within two weeks being a good target).
If you find that you do not have the propensity for nitpicking over the distinctions and consistencies of formatting and editorial styles, a professional proofreader or editor is an excellent solution. Be sure to choose one who specialises in academic or scientific writing, ideally in your discipline and field, and remember to provide a link to the guidelines you are following. Including any criticism you have received from an editor may prove helpful as well, especially if you are having trouble determining exactly what is required.
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