Thinking about submitting an essay, a story, or a poem to our editors for possible publication but unsure about some of the terms we use in our submission guidelines? Last week, I addressed some of the questions regarding simultaneous submissions and previously published work that we received last year. This week, I answer some of the formatting questions you've asked.
Q: What are straight quotes? Why do I have to do this?
Straight quotes are quotation marks and apostrophes that display on the computer screen straight up and down; they're sometimes called dumb quotes. Curly quotes, also called smart quotes, are quotation marks and apostrophes that display curly or diagonal on the screen.
Straight quotes: "I'm happy" Curly quotes: “I’m happy”
You'll often see straight quotes in online publications; you'll see curly quotes in printed books and magazines . . . and it's truly a point of discussion between typographers and computer programmers.
Typographers prefer curly quotes and blame the typewriter keyboard for introducing incorrect typography to the world. The typewriter keyboard used—and our present-day computer keyboard uses—one key for two different quote marks because it saves space on the keyboard. Computer programmers say curly quotes can cause problems with coding and within programs.
Because we're on online publication, we use straight quotes and apostrophes. You don't have to format your manuscript with straight quotes, but it helps us a lot. You should be able to do this using your word processor's search-and-replace function or by setting straight quotes to default.
Q: What do you mean "left justify"?
Like many online publications, we do not indent paragraphs. The text is displayed in block paragraphs with a blank line between them. We think it's easier to read our stories and essays this way. Again, you don't have to format your manuscript with left-justified text, but it helps us a lot.
Q: What do you want in a cover letter?
Just enough to introduce yourself and whet our appetite about your piece; this is not a cover letter for a job. We like to read a short biography (three or four sentences), a list of your previous publications, and an explanation of why your submission is right for Literary Mama (especially if you’re submitting for one of our special issues: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Desiring Motherhood). And, if you have a specific reason for writing--or if you were inspired to write--the submitted piece based on something we published – tell us about it. And I almost forgot: word count! Please tell us how long your submission is (and make sure it meets our word count guidelines).
In addition to our general submission guidelines, we have specific guidelines for each of our seven departments. Please read them thoroughly and send your work to the right department. We look forward to reading it!