Last week I assembled a document to send the final electronic draft of a paper off to the journal. This always involves a somewhat tedious set of tasks: Are the references formatted to fit the journal’s style? Footnotes or endnotes? Line spacing? When I become known as an eccentric but highly productive scholar, I’m sure I’ll take things like reference formatting less seriously (“That’s what typesetters are for!” I will say to myself, stuffing donut crumb-littered photopies into manilla envelopes), but at this point in my career this stuff matters, and every journal is just so slightly different in its demands.
Aside from issues of manuscript formatting, there is the process of sending in the final copy. Despite their appearance of modernity, not all the journals have updated their guidelines for electronic submission. Some admonish authors to submit disks in “PC-DOS” format, while others advise downloading manuscripts from the mainframe to a double-density floppy disk before mailing (this is an important step that cuts down on postage costs). Still other journals prefer archaic word processors: WordPerfect 5.1 comes up occasionally, as does Microsoft Word 6. While MacWrite still appears on some lists, many journals eschew MAC (their all-caps) format, admonishing authors that, if they simply must work with a MAC, they should save their document in ASCII TEXT. I have heard tell of a journal submission processes, the El Dorado of peer review, where stacks of paper (and ultimately floppy disks) have no need to travel on trucks and trains across the country, where document formats are universal and standards are cross-platform. But not in the world of social science, at least not yet.