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Writing for Publication: Formatting and Editing

Overview

As you know from writing your course papers and capstone projects, clear writing and formatting are important components of presenting your research. If your readers cannot follow your train of thought, or if they become distracted by problematic formatting, they might not trust your credibility as a researcher.  Although published work does undergo a formal editing process, you will increase your odds of reaching that point if you submit work that is already grammatically sound and compliant with required formats.

See our checklist for ensuring that you submit your most polished written work.

APA (Or Other) Style Guide Format

Most social science journals require APA formatting, although some depart from that style (e.g., requiring single spacing). Every reputable journal will have a clear statement its formatting requirements, which you should read carefully to ensure you understand the style guide expectation.

If APA is required, use our resources to ensure you have covered your bases:

  • Use our templates to ensure your pagination, margins, and other APA word processing requirements are in place.
  • Check your references against the APA manual (section 6.22-7.11) or our sample references, with special attention to proper electronic reference format.
  • Make sure your in-text citations are aligned with APA format.
  • Look at our top 10 APA nuances to ensure those areas are in compliance with APA expectations.
  • Solicit feedback on writing and content from your peers.

Spelling & Grammar

A document free of typos and other errors looks professional and polished and will present your ideas in the best light. Always build in time for this step when you are putting the finishing touches on your submission. Use the following proofreading checklist.

Proofreading Checklist

  • Run Grammarly and use Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
    • Pay close attention to noun/pronoun agreement. Reminder: singular nouns = singular pronouns, plural nouns = plural pronouns
    • Check spelling of difficult words and proper nouns (author names)
  • Scan document to make sure all sources of information are credited
  • Scan document for proper formatting, including title page, running head, page numbers, and spacing

Use all of the tools available to you within Microsoft Word. Word has a robust spelling, style, and grammar checker, so be sure to turn these settings on and heed the advice. You can also find advice on maximizing these tools on the Writing Center's blog. A word of caution: Although these computer-based tools are great helps, they are not foolproof. Be sure to think critically about each recommendation, as some will be inaccurate.

Flow

If you—like most people in academia—write in less-than-ideal conditions, there are sometimes large gaps of time between when you write one section and when you write the next. Interrupted writing like this can cause problems with the article's flow, so take some time to ensure your work flows smoothly. Some hints:

  • Read your work aloud. Our eyes often miss errors that our ears will quickly catch. This strategy is especially effective if you read from the end of your paper and work backward, which prevents you from getting pulled into the content that you likely have memorized.
  • Have a trusted colleague read your work and point out any areas that lacked clear transition or seemed confusing. Then take that colleague to lunch.
  • Once you have identified the areas in need of better transition, use our transition resources to help you smooth out the trouble spots.

Guidelines and Journal-Specific Tips

Read the journal submission guidelines carefully and ensure you have noted any layout, content, or style requirements you may have missed. This practice demonstrates respect for the journal and its editors.

Familiarize yourself with the content of the journal to which you are submitting. Reading a published article that mirrors your methodology is an excellent way to get a sense of what the editors expect. Does your submission match this content in tone and use of terminology? In addition to content considerations, think about writing style when trying to match your work to the appropriate journal.