AAUP 2001: Manuscript Preparation Guidelines

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Manuscript Preparation Guidelines: The Eternal Struggle

We addressed the level of detail found in different presses’ guidelines. Do we ask too much, too little, or just the right amount? How do our guidelines reflect our needs regarding file preparation?

Are We Asking Too Much?

Jennifer Reichlin, University of Georgia Press Many presses impose requirements on authors regarding the use of word processors. In many cases, however, by the time an author sees the guidelines, his or her MS already contains many of the problems the guidelines are meant to forestall. Some problems may be more easily and more thoroughly corrected by the project editor, disk cleanup assistant, or copyeditor than by the author, whose acquaintance with the software is often less sophisticated. Some requirements can cause authors extra work and frustration without necessarily eliciting good results.

Examples of common instructions that are worth reconsidering:

   * Use the same hardware and/or software from start to finish. 
(Authors don’t always have control over this. Translation software and filters can help remedy the problem.) * Embed (or don’t embed) notes.
(An author whose MS does not already comply with this instruction is faced with an awkward and time-consuming manual process.) * Keep formatting to a minimum.
(An author who minimizes formatting without exercising appropriate care may obscure important distinctions.) * Break lines automatically; no hard returns within paragraphs.
(An author who has used the keyboard like a typewriter may not know how to remedy the problem other than one by one.) * Never substitute "l" (el) for "1" (one) or "O" (oh) for "0" (zero).
(Although this old typing habit is difficult for an editor to remedy—or sometimes even to notice—it is likely to be even more difficult for an old-school author to remedy the problem after the fact.) * Use a certain number of spaces after punctuation.
(This problem is very easy to fix.) * Use underline for italics.
(Authors whose computer skills are not advanced often locate and reformat italics manually, a time-consuming process that usually misses some words and characters. A quick formatting replacement command produces the desired results much more quickly and also with better accuracy.)

Some of the above problems seem likely to become less frequent as we see more authors who learned on computers rather than typewriters, whereas others, such as unnecessary formatting, seem likely to become more frequent (computer-savvy authors, however, will be better equipped to remedy many problems quickly and easily).

Also, some presses require that authors follow a particular style manual or use a particular dictionary. A professional copyeditor, who should be well acquainted with the reference materials, will probably accomplish this work more easily and more uniformly than an author or volume editor. Of course, if a MS meets press stylistic requirements from the start, the copyeditor can attend to other matters.

Author Responses to Detailed Guidelines

Ange Romeo-Hall, Cornell University Press Cornell has some of the longest and most detailed author guidelines of the presses surveyed. Ange Romeo-Hall gave an overview of how the guidelines evolved in response to both production and manuscript editing concerns. She surveyed several authors who have manuscripts in process at Cornell and found that most authors were grateful for the level of detail.

Information on how to format the manuscript, information on how to prepare references and bibliographies, and the guideline’s final checklists were among the features cited by authors as most helpful.

Disk Handling

Russell Harper, University of Chicago Press Russell Harper described tools for disk and file translation and cleanup and emphasized the importance of staying current with software, old and new, to avoid facing compatibility problems with author submissions. The alternative—limiting the software authors may use to prepare manuscript submissions—works also, but keeping the conversion expertise in the press rather than demanding it of authors can be more efficient and will become more important as production processes (like XML) are increasingly incorporated into the manuscript preparation stages. He also mentioned that ensuring the completeness of a manuscript and disk is more important than ensuring that it follow specific formatting requirements.


Getting a complete and usable disk from authors is important to most presses. Presses should consider expanding what they will accept from authors and should examine their requirements to separate true needs from trivial requests.

by Jennifer Reichlin, Managing Editor, University of Georgia Press

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