The blogosphere was buzzing over the weekend with discussion of electronic submission to magazines/anthologies, and whether or not it should be allowed. Jonathan Strahan alludes to it here, and Scalzi has a rant here.
I’m a bit of a social Darwinist on this. I think that if not accepting electronic submissions means that magazines miss out on good material then they will probably die off as a result, and serve them right. Conversely, if it doesn’t matter, they’ll do just fine. However, as someone who has always accepted electronic submissions, I’d like to vent a little about a pet hate of mine: Standard Manuscript Format.
To be fair to Bill, he does a great job at helping people who have to submit on paper, or to editors who will take your electronic submission and immediately print it out. That’s because Standard Manuscript Format is designed for being read (and marked up) on paper. It is not designed for use by people who read and edit on screen.
So if we are going to move to a world in which submissions are made electronically, can we please have a new manuscript format that is suitable for that purpose? I don’t have the time to come up with a standard myself, and in any case it ought to be a collaborative process, but it should probably include a few of the following:
- A sensible file format (probably RTF), not the latest attempt at proprietary standards creation by Microsoft or something that is only supported by an operating system to which the sender has a religious attachment.
- Minimal formatting – bold and italic are OK, but don’t use multiple fonts, varying type sizes and so on.
- That goes for layout as well. No paragraph indenting, use proper paragraph spacing; and there’s no need for double-spacing between lines. Using a larger font size throughout is better for readability than double-spacing.
- Ideally have the whole thing in one style so that the editor can just select the whole lot and change it to whatever she’s most comfortable with.
- Never, ever use capital letters for emphasis, book titles and the like.
- Don’t embed your text in an email (I know some people like this, but I keep worrying about loss of accented characters)
- And my pet hate – don’t use two spaces after periods. The days of typewriters and non-proportional fonts are long behind us.
Anyone have any other suggestions?