Does anyone know of a programmatic way to check if an article submission matches a style guideline?

Submitters are likely to be humanists, so LaTeX is not an option. Assume the journal has a Word template they have provided - is there some way to write macros in Word that will validate a document against a template? Or, does OJS (Open Journal Systems - https://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/) provide this functionality?

EDIT: Motivation - my main interest is in automating as much of the journal submission workflow as possible to streamline a possible new project, thanks! I figured having an automatic screen for "did they follow the style guideline?" could save human time :)

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    It seems like this has some potential to annoy people. Software bugs seem inevitable, and submitters might get automated messages with weird error messages they don't understand (possibly when they did everything correctly). If you do this, please make sure that any automated e-mails have contact information for an actual human (who will respond to messages promptly).
    – Anonymous
    May 22 '17 at 14:17
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    Also, you might be interested in this: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/36677 Those arguing that authors shouldn't bother with style guidelines at all largely come from math and CS. I take it the custom is different in the area of your journal?
    – Anonymous
    May 22 '17 at 14:23
  • First anon - yes, great idea to have a human-reachable email on any automatic formatting emails, thanks! Second anon - thanks :) In CS there's a healthy arXiv / eprint / HAL preprint culture, not so (to my knowledge) in the humanities (though social sciences have SSRN, might be some humanities stuff in there). In the absence of a preprint culture, the cost to the submitter of formatting the submission is simply the risk of having to re-format for subsequent submissions to other journals. So there's some leniency generally in submission formatting, but final formatting tends to be tight. May 22 '17 at 14:42
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    I am curious. What are you actually attempting to do, and on whose behalf? Do you work for a publisher? Are you trying to start a journal? Are you trying to write a tool for your colleagues?
    – Anonymous
    May 23 '17 at 1:39
  • @bobo: "In CS there's a healthy arXiv / eprint / HAL preprint culture" - that is very subfield-dependent. In my HCI-related CS field, publishing preprints is virtually unheard of, and I had never heard about arXiv until reading about it here on Academia SE (and I think I'm reading "eprint" and "HAL" for the first time now). Interestingly, strict styles to be applied at submission are the norm there, which seems to match with your explanation. Aug 29 '17 at 14:09

Instead of automating the checks, minimize them by reducing the guidelines!

The critical pre-submission guidelines are only those where papers that don't follow them would have to be severely edited in a way that will change the referee's opinion about the paper. This is, e.g. a draft that is twice the permitted length, or one where the section organization used is not permitted. Many newer journals are pretty good about things like this (eLife, for instance: https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/a43f95ca/elife-references-yes-we-take-any-format-no-we-re-not-rekeying)

If I took guidelines 100% seriously, I would be spending a great deal of time not just on margins and formatting (mostly fast once I have a template), but on things like:

  • Does this journal use Fig., fig., or Figure?
  • Should subfigure captions be a) or A) or a or A or a or A
  • Should journal names be abbreviated?
  • Are the acknowledgments I wrote allowed?
  • Are footnotes permitted, or is everything an endnote?
  • Do figure captions have titles?
  • Is it appropriate to use a comma in an axis label (1000 vs 1,000)?
  • Is it Eq. 1, Eqn. 1, Eq. (1), ...

Eventually these have to be settled by work from the authors and the editors - but I've found that even different copy editors at the same journal can have different interpretations!

I view rejecting a submission for issues like this as being a waste of everyone's time. With an automated system, it might be less of a waste of time - but I think it also encourages journals to be nitpicky at a stage when it is not important.

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