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I have an accepted paper (yay) going through copy-editing at the journal, and several changes suggested by the editor I disagree with:

  • joined two barely related sentences with a semicolon in the abstract because "the background has to be one sentence"
  • replace all spelled numbers ("two") with numerals ("2") -- this is against most major style guides, which recommend spelled numbers for less than 10 or even 100.
  • Appendix 1, 2 instead of Appendix A, B -- whatever, but it's unconventional, and Figure A.1, etc. now needs a new convention, "S.1.1" ? Ugh.
  • moved a sentence like "more info on these methods in the Appendix" from the end of the relevant methods section, to the middle of it -- no idea even why
  • removed all "/" and "and/or", usually replacing both cases with "or" -- some people seem to be at war with "/" and/or "and/or", but in some cases they are more clear.

Anyways, can I (politely) reject these suggested copy-edits at this stage?

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3 Answers 3

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None of the changes you mention appear to change the meaning, so it really isn't that bad of a copy-editing job, all things considered. For worse examples, see this and this.

If a change is simply a matter of journal style you should probably let it go. It can be worth checking some previous papers in the journal to see if they are consistent about labeling appendices, number formatting etc. When it is unclear what the journal style states, I sometimes respond by saying that we understand if change X was made due to journal style, but otherwise prefer the original version. The success rate is quite variable... In general, you can make polite requests, but should be prepared for ones regarding simple formatting and spelling to not be accepted. It is better to save the stronger requests / insisting for changes that actually modify the conveyed meaning or otherwise introduce mistakes.

  • moved a sentence like "more info on these methods in the Appendix" from the end of the relevant methods section, to the middle of it -- no idea even why

That sounds like it's just a mistake that you can ask them to fix.

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  • Thanks. I did notice that the numbers are a standard convention after reading some published papers. Still find it odd. I will try my luck with the requests... Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 18:24
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    Also, those other examples are brutal, thanks for linking. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 18:31
  • It can be worth checking some previous papers in the journal to see if they are consistent Or you can ask the copy editors to point you to the relevant place in the journal style guide. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 22:17
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Most of these seem like the journal's standard style guide. You can object, but will probably not win. But "reject the edits" probably isn't on the table.

You can ask, of course, and ask for the justification. I suspect you might get access to the style guide provided to the copy editor who probably has little decision making power on their own.

But the editor wants a consistent look and feel across papers when possible.

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I disagree with the other answers that "it is journal style." Some of these things might be journal style, others probably are not. It's quite possible the journal does not have an official style, or does not adhere to its documented style. It's even more possible that the copyeditor works on many different journals and is not that familiar with this journal.

If you do not like it, ask them to change it. In my experience, the copyeditor will do whatever you want (I have not tried making intentionally unreasonable requests). The main downside of requesting changes is that you will have to wait for a response and check that the new version is not worse.

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