How to meet journal requirements when writing a paper

For researchers seeking to publish a paper in a journal, it is important to meet the requirements of the target journal. Meeting the requirements can speed up the review process and increase the likelihood of publication.

The first step in meeting the requirements is to find out what they are. Most journals have a website with a section on guidelines for authors which should include information on preparing a paper and the submission process. Read this section carefully. Then read it again. Then follow the guidelines.

As well as the relevance of the paper to the aims of the journal and the types of papers accepted such as empirical research or reviews, the requirements for a specific journal might include:

  • length of the title of the paper
  • length of the abstract
  • maximum total word count of the paper
  • type and format of headings and captions
  • US or British spelling
  • use of footnotes or endnotes (or not).

There may also be guidance on tables and figures such as the format, number allowed, the use of colour, and their location within the text or separately at the end of the paper.

Reference style is particularly important. Check the journal’s preferred reference style and apply it as closely as possible to both the in text references and the reference list. A template for the reference style may be available on the journal’s website to use in reference management software.

Looking at papers that have been published recently in the journal is a good way to check interpretation of the guidelines, including reference style, if insufficient information is provided.

Some journals are more flexible than others in their requirements for initial submission, and many copyedit and format papers to meet their own style once the paper is accepted.

An academic editor can be a second set of eyes to read the guidelines for authors, check the paper meets the guidelines, and advise on and fix any inconsistencies. The aim is to show respect for the journal and make it as easy as possible for the reader, in this case the journal editor and reviewers.

For a success story in meeting the requirements for Nature journal, see my recent blog.

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“An excellence of editors” – advancing the profession conference

I recently attended my first IPEd national editors conference, held in September in Brisbane. Thanks to the organisers, Editors Queensland, for their great work in producing a program to bring so many editors together from across the country for professional development.

There were several sessions on thesis editing including a workshop, two papers and a panel discussion which I was a member of, as well as informal discussion. There seemed to be agreement on the need to update the IPEd Guidelines for editing research theses, but views on the extent and direction of change varied. See my comments and suggestions to revise the Guidelines to better benefit editors, made to IPEd in November 2016.

Some conference sessions, including my participation in the panel discussion, are available as pay-to-view and conference proceedings will be available later in the year.

There was also much discussion on resources and business practices for freelance editors, some of which I will be including in my workshop on Improve your quoting practices on Friday 10 November 2017 for Editors NSW.

An “excellence” of editors was the winning collective noun chosen by audience acclamation, replacing the previous conference vote for a “cardigan” of editors. Yes, we like to be comfy when concentrating on excellence in editing.

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The value of editing and return on investment

Editing is not often thought of in financial or investment terms, but editing does add value and can have a high return on investment, known as ROI.

Consider these examples where editing has direct measurable monetary value:

  • editing a job application including cover letter, resume and selection criteria
  • editing an application for an award, with or without a monetary prize
  • editing an application for a grant, tender or expression of interest.

I recently edited a successful application for an award where the monetary value of the cash award was 10 times the cost of the editing. Yes, the raw material was high quality, but editing helps package the material effectively. Even awards with no monetary prize can translate into future monetary value if the award increases future job opportunities.

Editing can ensure the available information is presented in the best light, and is communicated clearly and accurately. An editor is a set of fresh eyes to ensure all criteria are met including word length, attachments and any specific requirements.

Think of the return on investment next time you consider editing. Editing is good value.

For editing and writing inquiries, contact me at

Paralysed by perfection and permanence

On a recent project where I was the writer, editor and project manager, I encountered a form of writer’s block and delayed both starting and finalising the project. There was a lot of thinking but it took time to get on the page. This was largely due to the nature of the project – a set of interpretive signs intended to be public, permanent and difficult to change. Of course, I wanted everything to be perfect.

Editors strive to improve text and clearly communicate the right message for the audience. But just as there is not always right and wrong in editing, perfection is not always the right goal. In the end, it was an external funding deadline that prompted progress to completion. The signs are now designed, produced and installed – and I am happy with them.

Be aware of your own possible blocks to writing and editing and think about how to overcome them. Be realistic about what is achievable within a certain time and budget, and given any other priorities.

At the recent workshop I delivered for Editors NSW on the business of being a freelance editor, a thoughtful attendee commented after a packed day of content on business practices that we should “be kind to ourselves”. It was a timely reminder for all about the nature of writing and editing.

Don’t be paralysed by the thought of perfection and permanence:

  • make a start
  • improve it
  • be realistic
  • know when to stop
  • be kind to ourselves.

See my related post on Is there right and wrong in editing?

Please contact me for inquiries about editing on

The business of being a freelance editor – 7 July 2017

I’m sharing my knowledge and experience of starting and running an editing business in a one day workshop for Editors NSW on Friday 7 July 2017 in Sydney.

I’m encouraging editors who want to be small business owners to be professional and value their time and expertise. Professional and business development is essential and benefits both editors and their clients. When you need an editor, look for a professional editor who takes their work seriously.

I’m an Accredited Editor and a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors, through the Editors NSW branch.

For more details on the workshop and to book, go to Events at IPEd.

For editing and writing inquiries, contact me at



Use your table of contents to check consistency of headings

Editors make many choices about style to meet the needs of the audience and the message. While there is not always right and wrong in editing, it is important to be consistent within a document.

A good tool to check consistency of headings throughout a document is the table of contents, which is often generated automatically from the headings used within the document.

Scan through the table of contents and check capitalisation of headings, use of colons or long dashes, use of acronyms, and consistent style, format and level of detail. Check that numbering of headings, whether done manually or automatically, is also consistent.

Check table and figure titles and appendix titles too. Are units of measurement, acronyms, dates or sources used in some titles but not others?

If you spot an inconsistency, change the heading in the body of the document, then re-generate or update the table of contents and check again.

Developing a style sheet is another tool for consistency. Editors use style guides and sheets to ensure consistency in style issues such as spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, dates and numbers in their editing decisions.

Consistency is part of making it easy for the reader by avoiding distractions.

See my related blogs on:

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Australian Manual of Scientific Style

A helpful new resource for writers and editors is the Australian Manual of Scientific Style, known as AMOSS. It is an online only resource for the science writing and editing community released by Biotext.

AMOSS brings together scientific conventions for a wide range of disciplines and aspects of communication. It has been researched, written and tested specifically for an Australian audience of anyone writing, editing or publishing scientific and technical information.

It has four main sections: Writing, Editing, Showing and Resources. Writing covers clear language, types of scientific publications and accessibility. Editing covers the basics, spelling and usage, punctuation, scientific terms, discipline-specific issues and references. Showing covers tables, figures, images, infographics and other visual information. Resources has international standards and resources, and Australian conventions and resources.

Throughout AMOSS, there are lots of examples, and tips such as ‘Did you know?’, ‘Caution’, ‘Reminder’ and ‘How to’. It also has a search function, bookmarks and downloadable, printable quick guides.

AMOSS is available at by annual subscription which is $60 for an individual. There is a discount price of $50 for IPEd members who need to login to the members’ section of the IPEd website for the code. Organisation subscriptions are also available. For more information, email

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