How to send a text
Divisions within a text
Spelling and Grammar
How to send a text to Bewildering Stories
Many of our contributors send submissions that are a pleasure to read and work with. A few need help. In either case, everyone might like to know what happens to a file when it’s processed for publication on line.
Let’s say your submission is in a word processor file formatted for printing on paper, as though you were going to stuff hardcopy into an envelope and mail it somewhere. Since Bewildering Stories accepts submissions only by e-mail, you send it as an attachment.
If you don’t know how to save a file in rich text format (RTF) or you forget and send a normal file, don’t worry about it; we’ll probably be able to open it.
What should a typical submission look like? (click here)
Here’s what the Editor does to your document:
Duplicates the original file by copy-pasting it into a relatively little-known but sleek word processor for the Mac: Mariner Write.
Changes the font to Verdana 14-point for easy reading. Bewildering Stories prescribes fonts only in headers and footers and a few other places; otherwise the fonts and sizes are those of the readers’ browser preferences.
Removes all extraneous formatting such as headers, footers, page numbers, hard page breaks, linefeeds, tabs, and weird spacings.
Makes the entire text flush left. The margins must be “flush left, ragged right”; line justification in submissions has caused Bad Things to happen.
Removes any first-line indentation in all paragraphs.
Removes double spacing within paragraphs.
Adds double spacing between paragraphs.
Next, the Editor simplifies the appearance of the text itself by:
Marking up boldface and italics. Boldface is normally used only for headers and subtitles; we do not use it for emphasis. The boldface in this page is not an exception because the page consists mostly of lists. Italics have to be marked up by use of the italics, emphasis and cite tags.
Running a spell check. If English is not your first language, please tell us and we’ll make a special effort to help; otherwise we’ll return badly-spelled texts for a rewrite or, more likely, decline to consider them.
Proofreading the punctuation. N.B. Full dashes (—) should be two short dashes (--); anything else may be garbled in transmission. See the section on “em-dash,” below.
The most important thing in your submission is the words. Artwork may add to them, but anything else is liable to distract your readers. And that especially includes such things as punctuation. These guidelines are the result of editorial experience and are intended to help us avoid errors and to help you achieve a seamless visual presentation.
Punctuation is the copy editor’s nightmare. Sad to say, some of the submissions we receive might bring their contributors fame and fortune, but the punctuation is so sloppy that publishers wouldn’t give it a second glance: the text would cost publishers too much to correct.
Our standard separator: To separate your text into “mini-chapters,” so to speak, simply type three spaced asterisks ( * * * ) as a separate paragraph. Please leave it flush left and let the copy editor center it.
Numbering: We advise against numbering sections unless absolutely necessary. Two of our regular contributors dote on numbered sections. It’s hard to see why: numbers add very little, and both of those contributors have been known to lose count. Sometimes writers forget to remove page numbers, which can easily be confused with section numbers.
If you absolutely must number the sections, please type an Arabic numeral, e.g. “1” or a Roman numeral, e.g. “II”; please use no punctuation. Each number should appear as a separate paragraph. Please leave it flush left along with the rest of the document, otherwise it may be overlooked. The copy editor will center it.
The horizontal rule: Bewildering Stories uses the horizontal rule very rarely. It may separate footnotes or bibliographies from the body of a text, and it may appear in headers or lists on index pages, or it may separate texts by different authors within a single document. But that’s about all.
If you feel you must use the horizontal rule, you may explain why, but we’ll probably insist on a less obtrusive solution.
Contributors may use either or British or North American style. However, we do make a few exceptions, because North American usage tends to be conservative with respect to British:
Capitalization in titles: British style appears to be moving toward that of Italian or Spanish. Bewildering Stories insists on North American style.
Example: (British) “The owl and the pussycat”; (BwStories) “The Owl and the Pussycat”
Grammar: (British) “different to” —> (BwStories) “different from”
“Than” has become a preposition in British; in North American it is a conjunction only:
Example: (British) “She was taller than him” —> (BwStories) “She was taller than he.” Better: use proper names; a sentence with more than one personal pronoun may be hard to understand at best, ambiguous or unintelligible at worst.
“Which” and “that”: North American English distinguishes systematically between the relative pronouns “that” (essential) and “which” (incidental). British English appears to have lost or to be losing the distinction in favor of “which” alone. Bewildering Stories insists on the North American usage.
Contractions: British style commonly forces the optional contraction of “is” after a noun, for example: “This sentence’s too long.” Bewildering Stories will accept the restriction in dialogue provided the rest of the text conforms to British style. Even so, we will not accept it in narration or other formal prose; the contraction leads to visual confusion with the possessive form.
The following rules are ironclad and apply to all texts regardless of origin:
It’s = “it is”; its = the possessive case of “it.” (Honestly, you’d be dumbfounded at the number of very talented writers who don’t know that.)
“Like” is a preposition only. “Like” is sometimes used as a conjunction — usually in place of “as” — in colloquial speech, e.g. “Like I said...” Bewildering Stories frowns severely upon such usage in formal prose, especially narration. Constructions using “like” + a subject pronoun, e..g “I,” “he,” “she,” “we,” “they,” will be corrected as a matter of course except in dialogue that depicts a character as semi-literate.
Either “gray” or “grey” is acceptable, but not both.
Either “okay” or “OK” is considered standard. Anything else will be changed to “okay.”
“United States” may be abbreviated as “U.S.” but not as “US”; it’s an abbreviation, not an acronym. However, “USA,” without punctuation, is okay. Likewise, “United Nations” may be abbreviated as “U.N.” but not as “UN,” for the same reasons.
Names used in direct address are set off by commas, for example:
- “Joe, is that you?” “Hello, Joe.”
- “Hello, darkness, my old friend.”
Bewildering Stories likes innovative writing. However, we draw the line at punctuation. We like to dress up nicely and put on an attractive appearance.
Weird cases: A few contributors occasionally enjoy indulging in stylistic fads. In particular:
Some poets use no punctuation at all. A few have used the stylistic exercise successfully, but most of the time the result is incoherent balderdash.
Otherwise, punctuation is a poor place for innovation. Commas that merely indicate line breaks in a poem will almost certainly cause the work to be rejected.
Spelling without capital letters. We’ll consider it on one condition: all words — including proper names — must be lower-case. And the text must contain no punctuation at all: no commas, periods, quotation marks, dashes, suspension points... no nothing.
Needless to say, such a text will be extremely hard to read. Unless the work is of earth-shaking quality and importance, the chances we will accept it are very close to zero.
Use of the ampersand (&) for “and.” We allow it only in special cases such as the names of companies and law firms and multiple authors in book review titles; otherwise no, and poetry cannot claim special privilege.
Exceptions: We will allow unorthodox typography for embedded texts, such as a quotation written in text-messaging style. We’ll probably set it off in a monospaced font. And we won’t accept anything written to an appreciable extent in text-messaging style.
Plain and “smart” quotes: We like to think that printer’s quotes and apostrophes help give Bewildering Stories the kind of professional appearance a literary webzine ought to strive for. True, such elegance takes work, but we consider it a courtesy and a favor to our contributors.
You do not have to supply the “smart” quotes yourself. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. The copy editor can change “straight” quotes to “curly” quotes with one pass of a Mariner Write macro.
Placing quotation marks:
Please put double quotation marks after periods and commas. The placing of quotation marks in computer programming and e-mail is special usage, not standard.
Single quotation marks go right after the words or punctuation. And we do not allow a single closing quote to combine with a double closing quote. For example: “Did he say ‘Help!’? I thought he said ‘Kelp’,” George mused, all at sea.
We will use British punctuation at the author’s request. British usage of quotation marks is the opposite of North American style. Some authors use single quotes to indicate interior monologue; that option is, of course, not available in British style, and we discourage the use of double quotes for interior monologue.
A few contributors, notably British, sometimes punctuate dialogue in French or Italian style, namely with leading em-dashes, no quotation marks, and no distinction between the dialogue and the speech tags. Bewildering Stories allows such punctuation only in languages other than English. We will make no exceptions; please don’t ask us to.
Speech tags: A “speech tag” precedes, follows, or is inserted within a direct quote. It identifies the speaker and contains a speech verb. Use lower case unless the attribution begins the sentence or begins with a proper name. It is part of the same sentence as the quotation but is set off by a comma unless there is some other punctuation. “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things...”
A speech verb is one like “to say, to ask, to tell, to reply, to shout, to whisper, to yell, to cry, to snort, to hiss, to mumble” and so on, far into the night.
- Paradoxically, the verb “to speak” is not a “speech verb” for the purposes of speech tags. It is an ordinary verb of action and has to be set off by a full stop or a colon, for example:
The prophet spoke: “If you’re planning to buy a new car, make sure it eats hay.”
- Attributions with ordinary action verbs such as “to laugh, to nod, to yawn,” etc. are considered implied speech tags. They are set off as a separate sentence from the direct quote, for example:
George laughed. “I’d cry if this weren’t so funny.”
When to use them: These are normally used to indicate an ellipsis in a quotation or an interrupted thought. To indicate an interruption, please use three points only, with no spacing between them or after the preceding word, e.g. “Wait...” Felix began as the taxi zoomed by.
Suspension points often indicate a pause initiated by the speaker. To indicate an interruption by someone else, the most common usage is an em-dash and a closing quote, e.g. “You don’t mean—” “No, I don’t.”
When not to use them: Please do not use them where a full stop, comma, semicolon, colon or even nothing at all is called for. Suspension points are punctuation, not a substitute for it.
Some contributors like to use more than three periods in suspension points. We’ve even seen them take up entire lines, as though the writer had fallen asleep on the key. Please don’t do that! They’ll all be reduced to three or deleted, if they’re superfluous.
The en-dash (-) is used mostly as a linking hyphen to spell certain words, e.g. “en-dash,” “co-operate.” Full dashes or em-dash — like this — indicate an apposition or insertion with no particular emphasis.
Please do not use the em-dash in your text; in RTF, Microsoft Word may change it to capital N. The copy editor probably won’t be able to catch all instances of the error, but your readers will and they will not like it. Instead, use two en-dashes ( -- ) with a space before and after. If we see any, we’ll reformat all of them as full dashes.
Reminder: full dashes normally come in bracketed pairs. If only one full dash is used, some other punctuation is usually called for, such as a colon.
EmphasisOur authors frequently like to show that certain words — especially in dialogue — carry special emphasis. That’s fine with us. There are two ways to do it:
The easy way. If you prefer, you may send italics or even boldface, but since we don’t use the “strong” emphasis tag, boldface will be changed to italics with the <EM> tag.
If you wish, you may put asterisks fore and aft, e.g. “What are you *doing*?!” It will appear as “What are you doing?!” The asterisks are intended to make things easy for our contributors.
Contributors often use full caps for emphasis. We’ll make an exception and leave them as is provided there are no more than about three or four words in a row. After that, we’ll probably change them to lower-case emphasis; full caps quickly become very hard to read.
The hard way. Use HTML code, e.g. “What are you <em>doing</em>?!”
Please do not use HTML unless you’re adept at it. For example, the <I>, <EM> and <CITE> tags affect computerized text vocalizers for the visually impaired, and the tags themselves may be subject to special formatting in the style sheet.
We once received a story that used the angle brackets < and > as fancy quotation marks. The first occurrence of < turned the entire text into an HTML tag. It converted to full caps, and the document looked like a giant telegram.
We like to think our coding is pretty sleek. Please do not send files in HTML unless they contain fancy visual effects. Otherwise we’ll just display everything as plain text and convert it to our style.
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