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Some of the systems are literally set up so they can ONLY accept PDFs (or Word documents). Hence it is imperative to follow the instructions. The system will not process the submission. It is built into the platform the journal uses.


I have had journals tell me that they cannot accept my paper in PDF but then accepted it for review after I resubmitted it in Word format. This was all done by email. I have no idea why. (It was written in TeX, so it took me hours to reformat.)


File formats matter. I've ha a few papers returned to me for being in PDF form, when the journal wants Word. I imagine it's got to do with what ports neatly into the layout and publishing software. Some fonts, for example, cause problems when imported from Word to InDesign; the publishing software may also struggle to recognize italics or to reproduce formatting (e.g. paragraphs) unless certain conditions are met. If I'm right, then these requirements are about reducing processing time and friction. The Word/PDF thing is almost certainly for similar reasons. (In fact, there are a few journals for which I suspect that there *is* no special publishing software, they just do it all in Word.)

Stylistic formatting doesn't matter much until it's accepted.

guest ed

This isn't a very interesting answer, but when acting as a guest editor, I required .doc(x) and not .pdf files because my computer introduces formatting problems when converting .pdf files to .doc(x) files for reasons that I can't understand. That's all.


X, you should consider writing in Markdown and converting to TeX, Word, or pretty much any other markup format you like using a tool called Pandoc (written by John Macfarlane): https://pandoc.org/ Even once up and running it will probably still involve some manual work, but probably a lot less than what you were doing before.

A Tiny Bit Less Confused

Thanks Marcus for posting the question and thanks everyone for your responses. I guess I'll have to spend a few hours converting TeX to Word.


I second Daniel's advice.

Sebastian Lutz

Pandoc converts LaTeX to DOCX, and so does tex4ht (which is a bit of a monster system, using its own TeX style for conversion, I think), although the latter requires converting to ODT first and opening that file in MS Word:



I can understand not accepting .doc(x). But not accepting .pdf? Seriously?! Please stop using word processors and start learning TeX!

anonymous philosopher

With at least two or three dozen respectable journals out there (depending on your subfield), just don't submit to those with byzantine submission requirements. Same goes for journals that regularly burn people with egregious delays.

Also, Word will open any pdf made by pdfTeX (thereby auto converting it and allowing you to save as docx), and in my experience it does so with very few errors that need correcting.

ed ... again

My sense is that SOME journals want PDFs only because they do not want referees f**king around with the paper. I have refereed for science journals and they seem to demand PDFs. That is all they will accept.

Shay Logan

I'm with anonymous philosopher on this one. In fact I go further now: unless I have good reason to think that the editorial team at the journal in question has some facility with TeX (easy to ascertain by skimming past articles) I flat refuse to submit there.

I still get burned on occasion though. Sometimes an editorial team will be generally good at TeX, but nonetheless hand off your paper to someone who really has no idea how to handle it. But that's not all *that* common, really.

guest ed

I must respectfully disagree with Shay Logan and anonymous philosopher. The editor's level of familiarity with new editing software ranks at the absolute bottom of my criteria for what makes a journal respectable, worth submitting to, and worth reading. The meaningful criteria are quality of work published and the editorial board's familiarity with the philosophical subject matter. I don't imagine that a flat-out refusal to submit on the basis of editing software would help to serve one's career or the profession, and I would certainly advise the graduate students in my life against such an approach, no matter how much they like something like TeX.

anonymous philosopher

"new editing software"

TeX was released in 1984. It's also very easy and rudimentary, like any markup language. Simpler than MS Word, for sure. Besides, if you're a journal editor, and hence *in the publishing business*, you should probably be competent with desktop publishing software.

Regarding "what makes a journal respectable", I think having multi-year wait times and incompetent production is a serious mark against you.

Regarding what "serves one's career", it's a simple expected payoff calculation. Do I (a) spend hours formatting a document and go through a multi-year process to maybe get a top-5 publication, or do I (b) spend 30 minutes uploading a TeX document and go through a six month process to probably get a top-15 publication? Much higher cost for marginally greater rewards is never a good strategy.

Shay Logan

In response to guest ed: the thing is, converting from TeX to Word (or whathaveyou) is time consuming and frustrating. That time and stress is better spent actually doing research (or spending time with family or... really almost anything, actually). And for any given quality of journal you like, there's always a few that have a decent ability to typeset TeX stuff. Given how integral to my workflow writing in TeX is (I'm a logician mind you, it's damn near impossible to work in a different environment), it's actually just not worth my time to worry about those journals that don't accept TeX. Will this, in the long run, cost me a point of prestige or two on my publications here and there? Probably yes. But I'll be a happier person. And I highly doubt I'm damaging the profession by submitting to, e.g. Erkentniss and Synthese rather than the Journal of Philosophy.

Actually, the rumor on the street is JoP will be accepting TeX soon as well. But you get the point.

Also for what it's worth, TeX isn't 'new editing software' in any reasonable sense. TeX in its current form is basically the same as it was in the late 1970s. This is entirely *not* true for something like Word. In fact, of the two, I'd say that it's Word and its ilk that should be thought of as 'new editing software', not TeX.

This doesn't, of course deflect the brunt of your objection---but really you ought to say something like 'legacy editing software' or some such, not 'new editing software'.

Shay Logan

Completely different response to guest ed: do people really think about editorial boards when submitting papers? The idea had never crossed my mind. My usual way of making this decision is something like this: I give my paper one last read; make a knee-jerk decision about which of the various journals it seems to 'fit well in' (in some nebulous, inchoate way), then send it off on a whim and, 24 hours later, begin to doubt my choice. I thought this was what everyone did.

anonymous philosopher

Sorry, I let guest ed's framing distort my response. The better, more basic, point is that any *any* level (e.g., "top-5"), you'll find some journals that are competent and don't impose byzantine submission requirements. So, submit to those, and don't waste your time when you come across a journal that imposes an unnecessary burden on you.

Marcus Arvan

Shay: haha, that’s definitely what I do most of the time (though not always).

anonymous philosopher

Shay, I'm basically the same, albeit I also (as we've been discussing!) think about the submission format requirements, ease of their management system, and their turnaround time reputation. What ends up happening, in practice, is that there are 5-6 journals I know are easy to submit to, reliable, and respectable. So, I mostly just go with one of them on a whim.

Mike Titelbaum

My personal approach to both formatting and document type requirements has been to do whatever makes most sense to me when submitting, then if submission is accepted redo the formatting (including converting to Word if asked). I think it’s ridiculous for journals to require specific formatting at the submission stage, including not taking PDFs. But in practice I can’t remember any times when, once I got the automated system to accept my file, an editor wrote back to tell me to reformat before they’d consider.

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