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I am assigned to review a paper that has an extremely strange page layout (the pages are squares, single column with about 150 characters per line), making it very impractical to print or read. It is for a journal and was submitted via Manuscript Central. I could of course read it on my screen (which I don’t like at all), or print it with either rotating or stretching the pages (which I tried but it’s very awkward to read and therefore extremely distracting).

Is it okay to write to the ADM and ask them to demand a re-submission in a proper document layout, i.e., A4 or US Letter? Or am I being fussy?

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    That layout definitely seems strange, but I'm not quite understanding the issue with printing it. Is it simply going to take 30% more paper than you'd prefer to use? – Bryan Krause Jan 18 at 16:41
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    the problem is that, a square page with 150 characters per line printed onto an A4 page is very difficult to read, and makes reviewing unnecessary cumbersome. – thrau Jan 18 at 19:40
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    Oh, 150 characters per line certainly seems bothersome... I'm still having trouble picturing this format but I can understand your complaint. – Bryan Krause Jan 18 at 19:49
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    I would suspect that the publisher has some computer problem, and write an email to their technical staff if the manuscript is actually supposed to look that way. Depending on their answer, you can still forward it to the editor and ask him to ask for a resubmission. – Karl Jan 18 at 21:22
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    @Karl I think you should post that as an answer. Journals often have you submit the raw Word or LaTeX document and the system tries to do things like add line numbers and a watermark. I can see stuff getting butchered in the process. – user71659 Jan 19 at 3:48
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No. It is not your job as a reviewer to demand things. You can inform the editor that given the format of the manuscript that you will not review it. The editor will then likely look at the manuscript and either decide that you are being a pain and find a new reviewer or that the manuscript format is ridiculous. In that case, they will apologize to you and tell you that they are requesting a reformatted version.

Unless the format is really awful (like less than 10 lines a page or greater than 100 characters per line), the editor will probably conclude you are a pain.

  • maybe i chose the words for the title poorly. suppose i rephrase the title to "can i respectfully request ...". (~150 characters per line by the way) – thrau Jan 18 at 18:59
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    @thrau yeah, that qualifies as a crazy format. – StrongBad Jan 18 at 19:21
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    It's exactly the job of the reviewer to demand things. Always through the editor, of course. :-) – Karl Jan 18 at 21:24
  • @thrau If the editor decides that you're being a pain and finds a new reviewer, I think there's a good chance the new reviewer will also be a pain for the same reason. After a few iterations, the editor might request a reformatted version and ask you to review it. – Andreas Blass Jan 18 at 22:30
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    @StrongBad Demand, ask for, recommend, the differences are subtle. But strictly speaking, yes, you're right. ;-) – Karl Jan 19 at 17:07
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The one column is not ugly for a submission. It is very normal for the journal to handle that reformatting and for authors not to worry about it.

The square thing IS ugly and a little strange (surprised it won't just print normally in Word?) But maybe it is a pdf.

I would lean to printing it and reviewing it. It's a minor imposition. (Reading poor English is much worse and if you have to handle a paper that needs a translator because of the flawed grammar, than just stop the review on those). But let the journal deal with the format peculiarity.

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    But unless the OP has an A3 (or tabloid) size printer, 150 characters per line will be unreadable without a magnifying glass. – alephzero Jan 18 at 22:56
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    150 characters per line is also unreasonable regardless of the type size. – Reid Jan 19 at 0:09
  • sorry but this isn't really an answer to my question, which was whether or not it is appropriate for me to contact the admin or editor of the journal. – thrau Jan 30 at 9:49

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