Scholarly journals have instructions for authors that are required and that the editorial staff expects authors to follow; we’ve highlighted the importance of author instructions in past blog posts, found here and here.
We admit that some journals’ requirements are more tedious and require more time and effort for compliance than others. Oftentimes these instructions reflect the technical requirements of online submission systems and layout software; however, as suggested in this blog post, instructions may serve as a prescreening for article consideration, comparable to the reasoning behind Van Halen’s clever tour contract.
The 53-page contract Van Halen used during their 1982 world tour included a request for M&Ms in their dressing room along with a note that read, “(WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)”. Contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t a rockstar diva stunt as explained here, but it was actually a clever way to ensure that concert promoters had carefully read the contract. A bowl with no brown M&Ms indicated that important technical and safety specifications had been met for a smooth and safe show; brown M&Ms suggested otherwise and prompted an item-by-item check of the production.
Similarly, some journals use their submission instructions to judge a submission. Effort demonstrated in following submission instructions can reflect the care and time an author spent on the manuscript. Blatant disregard of author instructions is a red flag signifying an author’s lack of attention to detail that in turn raises concern about the manuscript’s quality and, in many cases, prompts rejection without peer review.
Journals provide author instructions for a reason. Read them and follow them.