+8 votes
asked ago in General Economics Questions by (420 points)
I'm preparing to submit an article to an economics journal.  It's only my second ever attempt at article submission, so I have a couple questions:

1) The journal says that including a cover letter is optional.  Should I include one?  If so, what should it say

2) There is a fairly extensive set of style guidelines on the journal website (https://www.rje.org/styleguide.html) , but the top of the page says "for accepted papers only".  Does that mean I don't need to worry about these things unless the article is accepted, or should I make these adjustments before submitting it?

Thanks in advance for everyone's help.  I've been really impressed by the helpfulness of posters on this forum.

4 Answers

+4 votes
answered ago by (6.9k points)
selected ago by
Best answer
You don't need a cover letter if they say it's optional, unless there's something unusual that you want them to pay attention to. (I no longer submit cover letters when I'm submitting on the web.)

Some parts of their author guidelines may be important at the time of submission (e.g. length of paper), but don't worry about the precise reference format, etc. now, as long as your format is reasonably standard and easy to read.

good luck! (but we're in a tough business, so don't be discouraged if your paper meets some resistance from referees and editors, that happens to everyone...)
+3 votes
answered ago by (1k points)
edited ago by
One request: please put tables and figures where they should appear on the text, not at the end. It is nearly impossible to referee/read a paper on a screen when figures and  tables are  at the end of the document. There is a reason why journal publish papers with figures within the text.

Some journals ask to put tables / figures at the end upon final submission to help the typesetter's job, but at submission stage, your goal is to help the referee's job.
commented ago by (420 points)
Thanks!   I was surprised to see this request in the formatting guidelines.  Your explanation makes a lot of sense, and I'm planning to leave them in the text at this stage in the process.
0 votes
answered ago by (410 points)
I wouldn't worry about the formatting and instead make sure all of the requirements are fulfilled and that the article is consistent and cohesive throughout. It looks like journal doesn't have it's own copyeditors and expects you to do that if your paper is submitted, so if it is you should follow the instructions exactly because the proofreaders won't necessarily catch everything a copyeditor will catch. I'm an econ editor, so let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck!!
+2 votes
answered ago by (2.3k points)
As the others say, the submission format of the paper should be whatever you think will make it easiest for the referees. I like to number every equation, for example, so the referee can refer to them, even though a final version for the reader shouldn't number every single one.  I also like plentiful steps of algebra, even though that isn't good for the final reader.

   There are some exceptions. AER, if I remember rightly and am up to date,  will send your paper back to you if it isn't double-spaced, which I wouldnt bother with unless a journal insists. You won't get a rejection for that, just a bounceback and a month's delay.

   You might think that taking a lot of trouble to format your paper to the particular journal's style will signal that you really think the paper is good, and as a credible signal, something you wouldn't do if you were pretty sure they'd reject, it would help your chances of acceptance. Wrong. The signal is too weak, and the unobservable qualities of the paper too unimportant (or, put differently, the referees will not think that your ability to know whether your paper is good is accurate enough to be worth knowing). Also, there are plenty of people who think their paper is good but have their own preferred formatting and aren't going to reformat to what they think is inferior until they have to for the final version (e.g., I've always used the "Rasmusen (1989)" format for citations instead of the stupid "[10]" system some science journals use.) Finally, the referees are almost 100% certain not to even remember what style the journal they are late refereeing for uses.

     On the other hand, good writing style is important in itself and improves your chances of acceptance by making life easier for the referee and preventing him from falling into a sour and bitter mood and having to suppress his desire for vengeance against you for writing so confusingly.