14 June 2011


I recently had an odd experience. I submitted a short story to a speculative fiction magazine and the editor wrote back and told me my formatting was all messed up. I opened up my copy of the file; it looked fine. I couldn't quite figure out what the editor meant. Of course, by the time the editor received the file it had been reformatted according to their rules and emailed. So I'm guessing somewhere in there something went awry. (Gee, go figure.)

I was quite embarrassed and a little angry that the editor took me to task for sending in a file with the 'wrong format.' :( I do admit it was my responsibility as the author to ensure the format was okay. But... I thought the editor went a little overboard. What do you think? Is the 'wrong format' an rejectionable offense?

Here at ElectricSpec I've read some stories that had some odd formatting. I, personally, have not rejected anything because of formatting. Maybe I'm too lenient? :) I have no immediate plans to change my ways. Curious about our desired ElectricSpec format? Check out: Fiction Submission Guidelines.


AnthonyJRapino said...

This happened to me once as well, but I blamed the e-mail program. You see, this particular magazine requested all stories be "pasted into the body of the e-mail."

Apparently, somewhere between my sending the e-mail and their receipt of it, the format changed. I'm still not sure why.

I'm not opposed to editors rejecting a story if the formatting is so messed up that it's hard to read. If, however, it's just one or two little slip ups, a rejection is overkill.

David E. Hughes said...

I had an editor claim my formatting was wrong because I didn't use italics for character's thoughts. I never saw a rule that said you had to do that. In fact, many authors these days dismiss it as a passe convention.

Martin Willoughby said...

If it makes it unreadable, fair enough, but if THEY'VE done something at their end to convert it from one format to another, then thay have a problem.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

One of my favorite stories we published did nearly every thing on submission wrong. The story was that good.

I do find it annoying, though, to be cranking along on slush and have a story turn up that's difficult to read. But I usually just let the writer know and invite them to resubmit if I can't read enough to hold or pass on the story.

John S. Barker said...

The vagaries of word processing programs make it possible for your perfectly formatted document to end up a mess when the editor opens it, especially if (a) you are using different versions of the software, or (b) using "compatible" programs. For example, Word Perfect can open Word documents, but quite often the format is completely trashed. And different versions of Word cause problems.

I'm not sure why more editors do not accept PDFs initially. There is no argument about format when working with a PDF version.