JPR editorial Styleguide

‘Follow these guidelines, and all intelligent readers, and all magazine and book editors will hail you as a scholar and a person of breeding and distinction, and will get down on their knees, kiss the hem of your robe, and thank you for the trouble you have taken.’

This rough style guide has been adapted from the old Jacket magazine style guide; it it is now about as good as it is going to get. Jacket magazine was good in its time, but it belonged to the era of static HTML pages: when you only had a small screen, you only saw part of the page. That didn’t matter until everyone started using small screens: iPhones, for example. So Blogs, using ‘responsive’ design, appeared, and pages dynamically changed shape and layout according to the screen size you were using. (Yes, but how did the computer know this? Eh?) JPR appears on the WordPress blogging platform, and thus I am forced to come to terms with responsive design. Oh well… — JT.

This page tells you how to format and send your submissions to JPR, together with some information about the peculiarities of the Internet as a publishing medium. And please, please think about how the typewriter has forced poets to think in terms of sheets of US Letter-Sized paper, 8.5 inches by 11 inches, for over a hundred years. This is now changing: Charles Olson and his reign as a theorist are now officially over and done. The width of a poem can be as wide as an iPhone screen, a few inches wide: or it can be twenty inches wide, as wide as a computer monitor. Okay? Mallarmé was right: a steel-nibbed pen dipped in ink (and Cosmopolis magazine, May 1897 edition) is mightier than a typewriter.

Three screen sizes: we have to suit them all.
Three screen sizes: we have to suit them all.

So just how narrow can a JPR page go? Well, how about a tenth of an inch wide? To try this out, go to the JPR website (at and open a JPR page — any page — on your desktop computer screen.

1       Now use the mouse arrow pointer to grab the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.
2       Now, still “holding” the bottom right-hand corner of the screen with your mouse arrow pointer, drag that corner up and to the left, so that the apparent “window” you have opened onto the JPR page shrinks up and to the left. It should get smaller and smaller. When it is about the size of a small iPhone screen, stop dragging.
3       It can go still smaller: try it! Smaller and smaller, until it is only a sliver wide. And even smaller, until it disappears. That’s how narrow a window you can obtain. And all the while the text on the page rearranges itself so you can still read it all. Amazing!
4       Okay, but how do you typeset a poem so it is always readable on this shrinking screen? Answer: you can’t. That’s right, you can’t!! So don’t even try. Aim for a screen size that’s about four or five inches wide (that is, about ten to thirteen centimetres wide). Most sensible people won’t try to read a poem on a screen that is smaller than this. So just hope that your readers are sensible people, and design for them. Okay?

This strongly implies that writers who unthinkingly base their pages on the size and shape of a standard sheet of typing paper are out of touch with the contemporary world. Neither an American US Letter Size sheet (216 x 279 millimetres or 8.5 by 11.0 inches) nor the International standard A4 sheet (210 × 297 millimeters or 8.27 by 11.69 inches) have anything to do with the future: they all look back to the past, to the invention of the office typewriter by Sholes and Glidden (with help from Remington) in 1874, its rapid success, and its widespread use over the years from about 1900 to 2000. After that date, computer screens became more important, and the sheet of office letter paper faded from view, and with it shorthand, stenographers, typistes, and many theories about ‘composition by field’.

Below, a stanza (Stanza 3) from US poet Charles Olson’s interesting poem ‘The Kingfishers’, rendered in three forms: as seen via this version of WordPress on a desktop monitor with a diagonal size of 21.5 inches, as seen on an iPad, and as seen on an iPhone:

The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on a DeskTop Monitor
The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on a DeskTop Monitor
The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on an iPad
The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on an iPad
The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on an iPhone
The Kingfishers, stanza 3, as seen on an iPhone

Below, a page from ‘A Fluke’: a mistranslation of Stéphane Mallarmé’s ‘Un coup de dés…’ mistranslated by Australian poet Chris Edwards, with parallel French text (by Stéphane Mallarmé, of course!), redesigned for Jacket magazine’s HTML pages by me. As far as I know, the original was designed with a steel-nibbed dip pen and paper, and long consultations with the typesetter. Click on the image to see it full size. You can see the whole amazing poem here.

Mallarmé: Un Coup de Des...
Mallarmé: Un Coup de Des…

The JPR site is run entirely by volunteer labour, and we have to depend on our contributors to help us by formatting their submissions in a way that simplifies the typesetting work we need to do to convert documents to HTML for the Internet.

Countless typographers, typesetters, editors and printers over the last five hundred years have thought hard about how to best present a sequence of words in the form of printed pages. I have studied these issues over a lifetime, and these guidelines are the result. They are designed to help you create clear, readable and attractive text with sensible punctuation. As far as possible the difficulties of reading text on a computer screen have been addressed and in some cases ameliorated. Please take the time to study these guidelines, and adopt them in your work wherever you can.

You keep an eye on the pyramid, okay? I'll start deciphering the date. Hmmm... looks like 1776, to me.
You keep an eye on the pyramid, okay? I’ll start deciphering the date. Hmmm… looks like 1776, to me.

Follow these guidelines, and all intelligent readers, and all magazine and book editors will hail you as a scholar and a person of breeding and distinction, and will get down on their knees, kiss the hem of your robe, and thank you for the trouble you have taken.

This piece is about thirty printed pages long.

Jacket Magazine

Jacket Magazine moved to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in late 2010. It is now called

Sending to JPR:

First, read the About JPR02 menu page.
[»»]   Do not send books to JPR
[»»]   The Basics: briefly, how to format your submissions
[»»]   Footnotes
[»»]   Use a quality word processor
[»»]   Our recommended word processors
[»»]   How to send photos and images: file formats
[»»]   Paragraphs in prose articles
[»»]   How to indicate quoted matter
[»»]   Tabs: no tabs or paragraph indents
[»»]   How to send in corrections
[»»]   Typefaces: use a proportional font, not a monospaced one
[»»]   Page breaks: no page breaks, please
[»»]   Interviews: please don’t use italics for alternate speakers

JPR’s editorial conventions

[»»]   Punctuation: periods, the 1960s
[»»]   Quotes: Single or double quotes acceptable
[»»]   Dashes: How to make em dashes and en dashes
[»»]   Titles of books, magazines, stories, poems and articles
[»»]   ‘guillemet’ versus ‘guillemot’
[»»]   Line spacing

General layout issues:

[»»]   Why paragraphs should be much shorter on the Internet
[»»]   Layout 101: Why can’t things stay the way I typed them?
[»»]   Layout 102: A heartfelt plea to poets fond of fussy indents
[»»]   Paragraph indentation: contrary thoughts from Jan Tschichold

A digression:

[»»]   Chain letters, and why they are always malicious

Please do not send JPR magazine any more books for review.

To save back and forth postage costs and an unworkable work load on our end, we now prefer to assess likely reviews from the publisher’s description of a book, and where appropriate seek out a likely reviewer.


Sending to JPR

Submissions: I regret that I cannot accept unsolicited poetry contributions (except from writers I have asked before) — I don’t have the time or the space to handle them yet. I’m really sorry about this, but the Internet being what it is — an open line to hundreds of millions of rampant egos — I have to protect the time I have to spare for the magazine.

Anyone can submit a review, article or interview — but please send a 100-word synopsis first, with your return email address. Because JPR is free, I regret that it cannot offer to pay for contributions.
Send JPR an email — that is, click this link, or open and follow the Contact JPR manu item in the menu bar. Same thing.

Your name: Please type your name at the top of your piece.
But I really don’t need to remind you to do that, do I?

The Basics: how to format your submissions, briefly, in plain English.

Please format your work as simply as possible. I will do all the fancy typesetting that JPR demands. This means:

Make your work look as simple as possible. We will format your piece to make it look attractive in JPR; please don’t try to do that for us. If you make your piece look nice, with centered heading, bold sub-heading, and fancy fonts, we just have to take all this useless stuff out again, and we really don’t have any spare time for things like that.

Save and then Check your work: Save your writing as a Word DOC file (an RTF file is usually okay, though the Word DOC format seems to preserve footnotes better during the transfer to HTML).

Send your work: Don’t send your material inside an email: when you have checked your file carefully, send the file as an attachment to an email, not inside the body of the email.

Use whatever typeface you like. Times New Roman at around 12 point sounds like a good safe choice, but it is not. For a start, sometimes the font has problems with the operating system. Second, it is likely to be a ripped-off copy of Stanley Morison’s ‘Times New Roman’ typeface designed by Monotype for The Times newspaper in the early 1930s, and is designed to stand up to high-speed rotary steam-driven print presses. Since when have you seen a high-speed rotary steam-driven print press?

Go to the Internet and download this excellent free font: Linux Libertine. It is designed for the Internet and for computer screens. And use it for everything, at 13 point, 1.2 line spaced. Here’s the URL: (URL = Uniform Resources Locator… okay?)

Line-spacing: This doesn’t really matter. One and a half space is easily readable, but single space is okay.

‘Single’ or “double” quotes? My dear, I don’t give a damn.

Flush left, not justified.

Don’t use ALL CAPITALS anywhere in your piece. Rinse and Repeat: Don’t use ALL CAPITALS anywhere in your piece, especially not for the title.

Do not EVER use underline. Tempus fugit… Magazine and book titles are in italic, poem titles (when you are mentioning a poem in a review, say) are in ‘quotes’, and not bold or italic.

Example: John Ashbery’s poem ‘Two Scenes’ begins his first collection of poems, Some Trees, which was published in 1956.

Tabs: no tabs or paragraph indents, please. We prefer paragraphs NOT to be indented. Where you really do need to provide some space, use SPACEBAR characters instead.

Add LOTS of Paragraphs: because text is so much harder to read on a computer screen, please provide a lot more paragraph breaks than you would for a print piece, and provide a blank line space between paragraphs. But please see the note headed “Paragraphs and quoted matter in prose articles” below.

Do not send the whole file. When you send in corrections, just send a list of corrections. Do not send in the whole file again.

Do not indent: When you include a few lines of a quoted poem, don’t indent it. I’ll do that.

Now, please, read the rest of these guidelines slowly and carefully.


If you wish to employ footnotes or endnotes, please use a word processor that provides automatic proper footnotes and create your notes as footnotes, not endnotes. That is, when you read your piece on-screen, when you click on a footnote number, you should be taken to the footnote automatically. If you don’t know how to do that, try Insert Footnote, or ask a responsible adult.

In brief: do not create your notes as endnotes. Create them as automatic footnotes instead.

When you print out your typescript version of your paper, all the notes should appear as footnotes. But when your paper appears in JPR, all the footnotes will be automatically converted to endnotes. Resign yourself to this fact. Why? See the next point:

There are no “pages” on the Internet: and thus no page breaks and thus no footnotes in HTML documents. A footnote is called a “foot”-note because it appears at the “foot” of a printed page, and there are no printed pages, and therefore no footnotes, in HTML. There are screen-fuls of text, but the text is actually in the form of a long scroll, which unrolls from top to bottom, a scroll without any page breaks. Because there are no “page foots”, there is nowhere for a footnote to go. Get your head around that. See this note.

Check your footnotes in Word DOC Format: Once you have saved your JPR submission in Word’s DOC format (or similar, Rich Text File format is similar and better) open it in that format and check that your footnoted text has numbers that link to the footnote, and numbers identifying the footnote that take you back to that footnote’s anchor in the text. If your word processor cannot do this, get one that can. The best ones are very cheap, or even free. See the next item.

Your Word-Processor: Use Quality Tools

Use a quality word processor. You wouldn’t respect a surgeon who used a rusty fishing knife instead of a scalpel, would you?
The Pure Mac site has a listing and brief descriptions of many word processors and text editors for the Apple Mac:
Wikipedia has a detailed technical comparison (useful if you know about operating systems) of dozens of word processors for all kinds of operating systems here.
The Donation ttr site here has a very detailed and sensible 2007 review of fourteen word processors:

  • LibreOffice/ OpenOffice/ StarOffice
  • Microsoft Word 2007
  • WordPerfect X3
  • TextMaker
  • Atlantis
  • Papyrus WORD
  • AbiWord
  • Ability Write
  • EIOffice
  • PolyEdit
  • 602 Text
  • Google Docs
  • ThinkFree Office
  • Zoho Writer
  • and Summary

See our personal preferences below:

Recommended word processors — by John Tranter.

This started out as a helpful list of tips and turned into a rant. Thoughtful readers will gather from the text below that the only worthwhile word processors are the ones that specifically allow export of named paragraph styles, so the texts they produce can be used, massaged, and redesigned by other programs, such as Adobe Indesign, for beautiful books and printed magazines, and programs that convert styled RTF text (essays, etc) to clean HTML for use on the Net.

But if you use Macintosh OS X, which it is said most graphics designers prefer, two of the three word processors which allow export of named paragraph styles both have grievous faults.

Microsoft Word is the profit-making product of an organisation convicted in US and European courts for criminal misuse of its monopoly powers, and the program itself is bloated and unstable.

The producers of LibreOffice Writer and the older OpenOffice Writer make the programs available free of charge, and they design them both to be very stable. [Years ago: In a general sense they seem to be decent and well-meaning people. But they also appear to be aesthetically challenged and unresponsive, and the program they supply for free is clumsy and sometimes difficult to use.]

Others: Scrivener is an excellent draft word processor for the Macintosh. (It is designed for first draft writing, not final draft polishing.) It stands out for speed, stability and typographical elegance but it has problems, partly because it relies on the uncouth and stumble-prone Macintosh OS X text engine for all the heavy lifting, and thus export named styles only with difficulty. If only today’s Apple designers cared as much about the text their computers produce as they used to a decade or so ago… I guess the profits they make from the toys and gadgets they sell have blinded them. Let’s hope it is temporary, and that the Mac OS X text engine is redesigned so that it works properly.

On an Apple Macintosh computer, Scrivener (and Nisus Pro) create very clean RTF files, though, which include footnotes and other fancy bits, and they are very popular for that reason. I use them both frequently.

Again on the Mac, Mellel is an extremely elegant word processor, built for stability and long document use, and uses its own clever text engine. People have expressed some doubts about its ability to export DOC and RTF files perfectly, though, and it is difficult to learn.

Enough grumbling. Nisus Writer Pro, LibreOffice Writer, OpenOffice Writer (and Neo-Office) and Microsoft Word get five stars for providing their own text engines to allow for the export of named styled text in Mac OS X.

But What Does JPR Want?
Poets often ask what is the best kind of word processor for sending text to JPR. It really doesn’t matter, as long as the program can provide RTF files (Rich Text Format) or Microsoft Word “doc” files. (Nisus is good at this.) Even plain text ASCII files are okay, as long as you indicate italics by using asterisks *like this*, so the simplest text editing programs (like Notepad, TextEdit or BBEdit) can work too. It doesn’t matter what font you use, as long as it is easy to read and clear; whatever font you send us will be changed anyway. Times is a common choice, Cambria is better, but anything will do, especially the free and open-source Linux Libertine (available here), and Matthew Broderick’s Equity, based on Monotype Ehrhardt (available here, one-person license, USD$119), both excellent fonts.

Caveats: 1) More recent file formats such as OpenOffice Writer ODT files, or Microsoft’s new DOCX files, are flashy and new, but they are not much use. 2) Please don’t use Tabs or Paragraph Indents to indent text: always use spacebars to indicate spaces instead. 3) Please read this style guide to the end.

Okay, What Does JPR Use?
To convert a typed poem or essay into a JPR page, I use a few programs one after the other, making strong use of macros. Files are imported into Nisus Writer Pro and converted to RTF format and run through a large and complicated macro which cleans up the typing. For example, double hyphens -- are converted into em dashes — like so; and so on. Nisus Writer Pro is particularly good here: the RTF format is extremely clean and precise, and the macros it allows you to write are based on PCRE: that is, Perl-Compatible Regular Expressions. Regular Expressions are the secret heart of text transformations, and Nisus Writer Pro makes them easy to employ.

Lotus Symphony is a twin of OpenOffice supported by IBM. In my experience, it is horribly slow and thus unusable. In a single word: Don’t.

NeoOffice Writer for the Macintosh: a free clone of OpenOffice Writer. I find the current version (march 2010) very fast, stable and pleasant to use.

AbiWord supports Microsoft Windows including Windows 2000, FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, QNX, and BeOS. It will work on a Mac, just, but it looks awful. Small, fast but limited. In my opinion it needs more work.

Kword for Linux and several other operating systems: in my opinion it needs lots more work. Recommendation: try something else. Anything else.

Good and Cheap

Nisus Writer Pro
Nisus Writer Pro

My current favorite is Nisus Writer Pro (Mac only) originally Nisus (pronounced “nice us.”). As of December 2007 it was available in two varieties: Nisus Writer Express, and Nisus Writer Pro. The Express version is good and cheap, the Pro version more complex and very promising. The program is valued, claims Wikipedia, by its users — especially serious users like book authors — for its reliability and unique features. I have used it every day now for about five years, and it has never crashed. Its native “save” format is the widely-used Rich Text Format, capable of being read by any word processor, and the RTF it saves is very clean. It can also save in lots of other formats.

(Just to clarify things, Rich Text Format is a proprietary Microsoft format, and has been changed once or twice, so it is not as open as people think, but it is reasonably future-proof. If you don’t believe me, look it up in Wikipedia.)

Nisus Writer Pro has nearly every feature you could wish for, including a search and replace routine that varies from simple (Normal Find) to frighteningly powerful (PowerFind Pro with a regular expression engine): you choose what you need when you need it. And… a powerful and easy to use Macro engine. The program is not quite as feature-rich as OpenOffice, but this comes with the advantage of lightness and speed. It does export named styles to InDesign very capably. From my study of the helpful user’s forum, there only seems to be one serious problem: when handling very long files (hundreds of pages) with hundreds of footnotes, such as academic dissertations, the program can slow to a crawl.

Scrivener: alas for Mac OS X only. A word processor designed by a writer for other writers, and designed for drafting large and complex projects (not for final typesetting or polishing). I love it, and so do thousands of others. Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers. It won’t try to tell you how to write — it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application. It exports to RTF with footnotes and italic and bold type, though like other cheap Mac OS X word processors, it depends on Mac OS X’s crippled Cocoa text engine, and does not export named styles. It is inexpensive. You can write an email to the courteous, friendly and smart English school-teacher who wrote the program, and he will answer you. Try that with Bill Gates!

TextMaker (Windows and Unix and Linux only) is part of the German-made SoftMaker office suite, and is very compatible with Word documents. It is fast, stable and reliable, and can handle huge files with ease. It is not expensive, and the academic edition is less than the price of a six-pack of beer. (Then again, a six-pack of beer is probably more fun.) Works on Windows, Windows CE and Windows Mobile, and Linux, but not Mac, and exports to RTF. As an aside, if you need a proper word processor for a Windows Mobile phone, this is the very best.

Mariner Write: Mac only. Released in the early 1990s, Mariner Calc and Mariner Write are rather lightweight but full-featured spreadsheet and word processing applications for Apple Macintosh Computers.

Good but expensive

WordPerfect is a proprietary word processing application owned by Corel. At the height of its popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was the de facto standard word processor, but has since been eclipsed in sales by Microsoft Word.

Nota Bene is a suite of word processing and related software for Microsoft Windows derived from XyWrite, once the light, quick and agile text-only word processor of choice for journalists and magazine editors, now in its new incarnation adopted by the Modern Language Association of all people. It contains features aimed at an academic writing audience, including multilingual character sets, reference-managing tools, a bibliographic utility, and a textbase creation utility. It has full multilingual support. The learning curve is Himalayan and requires oxygen tanks. In 2009 it was in version 8.0.

Adobe’s Framemaker is the Jumbo Jet of word processors. In fact it was used to design literally tens of millions of pages of Boeing airplane parts lists, diagrams and manuals: just the kind of job it was built for. I struggled to learn it for a year, studying three different 500-page printed manuals, and gave up. It is as solid as a rock and can do anything, but choosing to use it to write an essay is like buying a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to do a spot of fishing. Bruce Byfield has a fascinating comparison between Framemaker and OpenOffice Writer here: A heretical proposition, but Mr Byfield makes it sound very, very interesting.

Adobe InDesign is expensive and difficult to learn, though it is a wonderful tool for designing beautiful books and magazines, as noted above. It exports to XML, but to RTF only with difficulty. In other words, it locks you in. It is meant for typographic design, and is thus next to useless as a word processor, because in order to handle its elegant typography, brilliant hyphenation and sophisticated page layout, it has to produce huge files. A two-page business letter can bloat out to over two megabytes, a thousand times the size of a plain text email of the same document. And… did I mention that it is expensive?

Microsoft Word: Bloated, somewhat unstable, but usable.

Clouds over the Atlantic
Clouds over the Atlantic


are best sent as e-mail attachments in the form of

  • JPGs,
  • full RGB color,
  • ‘high’ quality,
  • about 6 or 7 out of ten on the quality scale, i.e. fairly large
    file, not too compressed
  • resolution at about 100 pixels per inch,
  • total of about 500 pixels wide and 500 pixels high at the
  • Make sure the file name ends with the suffix ‘.jpg’ (not ‘.jpeg’) in lower case.

Please do not send your photos gathered together into one file and compressed. This is a waste of time: all image files  — GIF, JPG and PNG  — are already compressed. If you need to send a number of photos, send them as separate attachments to one email.

The GIF format handles areas of flat colour well, but it doesn’t do gradation or shading in tone or color very well; JPG does that better, which is why it’s best for photos.

TIFF or TIF files are mainly used for printing ink on paper, or for storing images of fax pages. (Remember fax machines? Patented in 1843 by Scotsman Alexander Bain, used widely in the 1930s by newspapers, perfected in the 1970s by the Japanese and widely used everywhere, and consigned to oblivion in 2000 by the Internet.) TIFF files are usually large and unwieldy, though they can be very useful on the Internet, as almost every computer system can read them. They can also store metadata information in XML form within the file: photographer, subject, date, and so on, which gives them a great advantage for archival use.

You can send a photo by air mail. I can scan and return photos safely and promptly within a week or two. JPR’s address is given near the top of this file.

Paragraphs in prose articles

If your submission is mainly prose, it will consist of a number of paragraphs. To allow readers to cite a particular place in your text, as they cannot refer to page numbers (fixed page sizes and thus page numbers as such do not exist in HTML documents) JPR needs to provide paragraph numbers (or Section numbers: same thing.) See below.

And if your submission is a review, article or interview which contains some amount of quoted prose or poetry, please decide whether each quote is short or long, as short quotes do not need paragraph numbers, and long quotes do.

Short quotes are those which contain a dozen or so words of prose, or two or three lines of poetry, and they are best incorporated into the normal flow or your writing, marked clearly by being put within quote marks, like this phrase from a Wordsworth poem, for example:

The Romantic poet William Wordsworth sometimes wrote dull lines, it can’t be denied. For example, his description of a little girl’s coffin is meant to be touching; in an early version is was merely bathetic: “I measured it from side to side / ’Twas three feet long and two feet wide”. His friend Sam Coleridge remonstrated with him about the flaccid effect of these lines, but to little avail.

Notice the slant line with spaces on each side like this / to indicate a line break within the quoted matter. Stanza breaks are best indicated by // two slant lines.

Long quotes are different, and deserve their own paragraphs, formatted in the “blockquote” style. (We will take care of that “blockquote” formatting for you.) Please don’t surround these long quotes with quote marks, as the blockquote effect is quite sufficient to tell the alert reader that this is quoted matter.

Since these long quotes form paragraphs of their own, we need to give them special formatting and paragraph (or Section) numbers, as mentioned above. You can help here, by indicating paragraph breaks and where quoted matter starts and finishes in such a way that we can give each paragraph a number.

Some of you may cling to the quaint habit of using the lower case letter l (El) instead of the numeral 1 (One), a hangover from the olden days when tiny, light portable typewriters lacked the full complement of keys. (I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true.) If so, please think again: the letter l will not work here. You will need to find the numeral 1 somewhere on your keyboard and use that. It’s usually near the top left-hand corner of the keyboard. (Your left hand is the one on the second-largest finger of which one usually puts the wedding ring.) Okay?

Quoted matter

Just to clarify: When you insert a quote consisting of a few lines or more from a poem or from a prose source, don’t indent it, and don’t put it in quotes or in italics.

Tabs: no tabs or paragraph indents, please. Use SPACEBAR characters instead.

Please don’t use tabs for indented lines or paragraphs and please don’t use tabs to provide spaces between words. Why? Two reasons: your tabs may be one inch wide, ours are usually half a centimeter wide, and Mary Smith’s might be seven inches wide.

Also, and worse, when text is converted to HTML by our automatic translating machine, the tabs disappear and all your indented lines lose their indents, and your inter-word spacing disappears too. Reason: there is no such character as a ‘tab’ (tabulated alignment) in HTML.
The same problem applies to paragraph indents; that is, the automatically indented first-line-of-paragraph trick that Microsoft Word in (.doc or in .rtf files) provides for you. Paragraph indents disappear in HTML too.

How to send in corrections

Please don’t submit a piece until you are certain that it is the final draft and will not need revising, ever, as long as you live. If you have any doubts, please don’t send it until you are certain that you can live with the appearance of the file as it is. JPR cannot accept changes to your work except for typographical or factual corrections.

When you have such (minor) corrections to send, please don’t re-send the whole piece. Why?

Because I will have to typeset the whole piece all over again: run it through my Word macro to normalise errors like two spacebars after periods, wrong en and em dashes, etc, then add a blank paragraph number to each paragraph one by one, then run the HTML file through BBEdit’s series of macros to convert line-breaks and blank paragraph numbers to proper XHTML, then edit the file in BBEdit to add page headers, page tails, page title, and each paragraph number one by one, then upload the final file via Transmit FTP to my JPR site. Doing all that once with each file is quite enough.

So when there are minor unavoidable changes to be made, please send an email specifying the changes you want, one by one, referencing them by the surrounding text and/ or paragraph numbers.

For example:

Correction: paragraph 35: Arthur Rimbaud’s left leg was amputated in 1891.
Change <left> to <right>

Correction: paragraph 127: I measured it from Side to Side —
’Twas eleven feet long, and two feet high.
      Change <eleven> to <three>
      Change <high> to <wide>

… and so forth.

Just send the corrections, identified by the surrounding text as in the example above, not by page numbers.

Page numbers: Please don’t refer to page numbers when you are talking about an HTML document on the Internet. ‘Pages’ in HTML aren’t really pages as such. When you print out a page, say ‘page thirty’ of an essay, on your printer, the entire file has different pagination to what it has when anyone else prints it out, depending on the fonts installed on your computer, the size of font your browser is set up to show, whether your browser can display tables or not, the kind of printer you are using and its default margin settings, and the size paper you use — US letter size is distinctly different from the international standard A4 size.

If you print that same ‘page thirty’ on someone else’s computer and printer, you may well get what you think is page twenty-eight, or page thirty-two.

PDF documents (Adobe Acrobat ‘Portable Document Format’ documents) on the Internet are different: they do have page numbers. But such documents are rare, as they don’t suit the medium at all well.

And in any case, when I’m editing a piece to incorporate corrections, I can’t see any page numbers, just a long unpaginated series of lines of text.


You wouldn’t think it matters, but it does. Please use a normal proportional-spaced font like Linux Libertine (not Times New Roman) for your work. Mind you, I just hate fussy indents; they just don’t work well in HTML. See below.

Page breaks: no page breaks, please.

If you wish to send material that has manual page breaks within it, please think again, and get rid of the manual page breaks. (A manual page break is where you tell your computer to force a new page to begin.) There are no ‘page breaks’ on the Internet. Pages on the Internet are not pages as we know them, Jim. They aren’t paper, for a start. They are more like long vertical scrolls that scroll up and down behind the imaginary window that is your computer screen. Look at this page, for example: it is one single computer file, with a head and a tail, about three metres tall, if you printed it out on a continuous sheet of paper.

Go on: scroll up and down as far as you can. It’s long, isn’t it? And where are the page breaks? There aren’t any.

When you DO print this file, because you (probably) use a standard laser computer printer, it appears are a series of sheets of paper. On a printer fitted with a continuous roll of paper, like computers used to have in the old days, it would appear as a long single scroll.

If you wish to indicate significant breaks in the flow of your text, replace the manual page breaks with a symbol of some kind, like so: insert a blank line, then a group of three asterisks, then a blank line, with the asterisks indented using spacebar characters. (Please don’t indent anything using a tab or a paragraph indent code: they just disappear in HTML.) You can use the oddly-named pilcrow (or paragraph mark) like this:


You can insert this in Microsoft Word by choosing Insert / Symbol and looking for it in the list of proffered characters.

Interviews: please don’t use italics

If you’re sending an interview, please don’t make the questions or answers italic. A little italic goes a long way on a computer screen, and because the uprights of the characters are angled, they become jagged and hard to read. Just start the questions with Q: and the answers with A:, or use the interlocutors’ surnames or initials.

Here are some of JPR’s editorial conventions. These conventions may be arbitrary, but they are not that arbitrary — I have spent thirty years thinking about them. I do everything involved in JPR, including typesetting, and I do it for nothing. My time is precious to me. So please convert your idiosyncrasies to mine before you send your pieces.


Punctation: periods (full stops), decades

Sentences have ONE spacebar character following the period, not two. Please. You type a single spacebar character after a comma, after a colon, and after a semi-colon, don’t you? Well, periods, exclamation points and question marks are just the same. Here’s Wikipedia, at
More recent works on typography weigh in strongly. Ilene Strizver, founder of the Type Studio, says, “Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.”

The Complete Manual on Typography (2003) states that “The typewriter tradition of separating sentences with two word spaces after a period has no place in typesetting” and the single space is “standard typographic practice”.

The Elements of Typographic Style (2004) advocates a single space between sentences, noting that “your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint [double spacing] Victorian habit.”

David Jury’s book, About Face: Reviving the Rules of Typography (2004) clarifies the contemporary typographic position on sentence spacing:

Word spaces, preceding or following punctuation, should be optically adjusted to appear to be of the same value as a standard word space. If a standard word space is inserted after a full point or a comma, then, optically, this produces a space of up to 50% wider than that of other word spaces within a line of type. This is because these punctuation marks carry space above them, which, when added to the adjacent standard word spaces, combines to create a visually larger space. Some argue that the ‘additional’ space after a comma and full point serves as a “pause signal” for the reader. But this is unnecessary (and visually disruptive) since the pause signal is provided by the punctuation mark itself.

Decades like the nineteen-sixties: Please don’t insert an apostrophe and call the 1960s the 1960’s: I just have to take it out again. (When you spell out the word, you don’t spell it like this: the nineteen-sixty’s, do you?)

Quotes: single or double quotes acceptable; how to make curly quotes

You might like to use double quotes, and single quotes within them if needed; but we prefer you to use single quotes, and double quotes within them if needed.

JPR’s house style is single quotes first, then when needed double quotes inside single quotes, but that can be a problem with the two hundred million Americans who prefer things the other way around. They still insist on using quaint paper sizes such as ‘legal’ (21.59 cm by 35.56 cm, or 8.5 by 14 inches) and ‘letter size’ (21.59 by 27.94 cm or 8.5 by 11 inches) and ‘executive size’ (18.41 cm by 26.67 cm or 7.25 by 10.5 inches), when the rest of the civilised world uses the International standard A, B and C sizes. America is a strange country: just as trainee executives aren’t allowed to use the Executive Washroom, so junior typists aren’t allowed to type on ‘Executive Size’ paper: they have to use the ‘junior’ size sheet.

Single quotes has been the government-recommended practice in Australia and may other countries for forty years. The Dutch environmental scholar Dr Winkelschnippe of Leyden has calculated that if North American book publishers used single instead of double quotes, this would save hundreds of millions of litres of polluting printing ink every decade — several times the capacity of the Hoover Dam. (You may like to take that statistic with a glass of water from the Hoover Dam and a large grain of salt.)

XHTML allows for true typeset ‘single quotes’ and “double quotes”, usually known as ‘curly quotes.’ If you use Microsoft Word, or any sensible word processor, you can change from curly quotes to straight quotes and back again. A right-hand single curly quote is the same character as an apostrophe. Here’s what the Help file says:

You can find and replace all instances of single or double curly quotes with straight quotes in your document. To do this, clear the Straight quotes with smart quotes check box on the AutoFormat As You Type tab. On the Edit menu, click Replace. In both the Find what and Replace with boxes, type ” or ’, and then click Find Next or Replace All.
To replace all straight quotes with curly quotes, select the Straight quotes with smart quotes check box, and repeat the find and replace procedure.



We use an em dash — like this — here at JPR’s downtown office; but that’s typesetting. When you’re typing up a poem or essay to send in, we (and most other editors) like you to use a spacebar, two hyphens, and a spacebar -- like this. We can convert that into typeset dashes without too much trouble, as long as you’re consistent.

If you want your typed material to look more professional, you can try a few typesetting tricks. Microsoft Word allows you to insert em dashes using the ‘Insert Symbol’ command: Alt + i. Better still, Word allows you to map this symbol (and any other symbol) to a combination of keys, such as Control plus Shift plus (right square bracket). See ‘customizing shortcut keys’ in the Help file. Most other word processors will allow the same symbol to be used: look in your word processor’s Help file.

You can use a hyphen between dates such as 1943-45, or for page ranges like pages 233-56, but if you want to be fancy, you can use dashes. It’s traditional to use an EN dash, which is half the width of an EM dash (well, the letter n is about half the width of the letter m, isn’t it?): ‘the period 1922–43’, ‘pages 173–229’. In this case there is no space either side of the dash.

Bibliographies: Three hyphens work fine, but you can use the em dash (tripled as a 3-em dash) in bibliographies to replace the author’s name when a series of works by the same author is listed.


Titles of books, anthologies, magazines or newspapers are in italics, with no quotes, and please NOT in CAPITAL LEttERS — IT LOOKS AS THOUGH YOU’RE SHOUTING! When I get articles with a list of book titles set in capital letters, I have to re-type each title, one letter at a time. Please do not use _underscores_: use true italics instead. If your word processor can’t manage italics, buy one that can, or download the free OpenOffice Writer from

Titles of poems, short stories or magazine articles (when they are quoted in an article) are in plain roman type (not italics) and have single quotes. Here is an example:

John Ashbery’s poem ‘Two Scenes’ begins his first collection of poems, Some Trees, which was published in 1956.

The titles of your own poems or articles which you send to JPR should be in plain roman type, capitals and lower case, and have no quotes.

Please try to grasp the fact that there is a simple hierarchical structure to this: if a piece is a small component of a larger whole — a poem in a book of poems, an essay in a magazine full of essays, a chapter in a book with lots of chapters — then it has quotes around it. To italicise a whole title is a serious typographical gesture, so it is reserved for larger, more important works: novels (collections of many chapters), anthologies of poems, assemblages of essays.

For a while there, an enthusiasm of mine was to use double angled
brackets or «guillemets» to indicate book titles;
that’s how it’s often done in Europe. Robert Bringhurst in his
informative book «The Elements of Typographic Style»
says that ‘French and Italian typographers set their guillemets
with the points out, «thus», while German-speaking
typographers usually set them »the opposite way«.’
Ain’t people strange? Furthermore:

‘guillemet’ versus ‘guillemot’:
The word ‘guillemet’ is derived from the French spelling of the name William; French for ‘Little Willy’, Bringhurst says, named after the sixteenth-century typecutter Guillaume [William] le Bé, who may have invented the device. Guillemets look like «this».

Also derived from the French for ‘William’ is the similar word ‘guillemot’, a North Atlantic sea-bird, Uria aalge. A common Australian bird is the Willy Wagtail, no relative. Meanwhile, in chilly Iceland…

A common guillemot, swimming in chilly Iceland. Thanks: photo by Ómar Runólfsson, courtesy Wikipedia. Note the slightly crooked fake spectacles...
A common guillemot, swimming in chilly Iceland. Thanks: photo by Ómar Runólfsson, courtesy Wikipedia. Note the slightly crooked fake spectacles…

In Adobe Systems font software, its file format specifications, and in all fonts derived from these that contain the characters, “guillemet” is incorrectly spelled “guillemot” (a malapropism: guillemot is actually a species of seabird) in the names of the two glyphs: guillemotleft and guillemotright. Adobe acknowledges the error. Likewise, in Unix systems, X11 mistakenly calls them “XK_guillemotleft” and “XK_guillemotright” in the file keysymdef.h. (Wikipedia)

How to remember the different spellings?
— To typeset the symbol guillemet, metal type was traditionally used.
— The guillemot has mottled plumage.

Line spacing

Which line spacing you use is not important.

Why paragraphs should be much shorter on the Internet

For an article meant to be read on the Internet, paragraphs need to be much shorter than they would for printed output. If you provide me with long paragraphs, I will have to insert extra paragraph breaks. This has nothing to do with literary style, and everything to do with eyestrain and misery. Everyone agrees that it is difficult and tiring to read large amounts of text on the Internet. There are several reasons why, and they are cumulative.

Eye strain
Eye strain

When you’re reading a book, you adjust the angle of the page, the intensity of the light source and your distance from the light source without thinking. You hold the book so that you look down at it, at a comfortable angle. The light is reflected from the white or off-white paper. The ink is perfectly black, the resolution of the edges of the text on the paper is as sharp as a razor: at least an apparent one thousand dots per inch. So the page is comfortably white; the text is perfectly black and crisp.

Reading from a computer screen is different. The page is vertical or almost vertical, and at a fixed distance from your eyes. You have to sit up straight and hold your head back at a higher angle, and this strains the muscles at the back of your neck. The light source comes from inside the page, and it is not easy to adjust its intensity. The effect is glare, and you’re looking right into it.

The text is made up of blended glowing phosphor dots coloured with different proportions of red, green and blue, and the resolution is generally no more than 72 dots per inch (Macintosh) or 96 dots per inch (IBM style Personal Computer), compared to the 1,000 dots per inch of print. No text on a computer screen is ever black: the darkest it can get is the colour of your screen when it is turned off, and that is usually dark grey. So you have blurry dark grey text with coarse edges on a glaring white surface. Already we have pain.

When you turn a page, you know exactly what to expect: a new page, just like the old, continuing exactly where the old one left off. When you click the scroll bar on a computer screen, what you have been reading disappears in a flash, and is instantly replaced by something different, but you have no exact idea where the new text begins. You scan the screen: is the new text right at the top of the screen, or a little bit below the top, or maybe a third of the way down the screen? You find it, but only after a moment of strain and adjustment each time. You go through this process every two hundred or so words. You could try scrolling line by line, but then the whole page jerks up again and again. More strain.

I could go on, but the main point is simple: reading from a screen is a pain, and writers and editors should do everything they can to make the pain less. This involves using shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs, providing ample left and right margins and off-white plain backgrounds (never patterned backgrounds, please!), dark type, clear page navigation systems, easy-to-grasp contents pages, and so forth.

Oh — please use two carriage returns between paragraphs. And there’s no need to indent the beginning of paragraphs. If I want to do that to your text, I can easily do it later.

Layout 101: Why can’t things stay the way I typed them?

Q: Why does the lineation and layout of my article or poem change when I view it on a different computer?

A: Good question. I’ll try to answer it. When your browser shows you a page on the Internet, what it is doing is interpreting a set of typesetting instructions and some text and images, and presenting the results, as best it can, on your screen, coloured with an off-white background colour.

— Why an off-white background colour?

— Plain white produces glare that is tiring to read; plain mid-grey (the standard background colour in the early days of the World Wide Web) looks muddy to me, and offers too little contrast for the black type to stand out clearly. JPR mostly uses an off-white whose hex code is ‘ffffef’. These technological issues have interesting implications for modern poetry. Most poets imagine that a page on their computer screen is more or less like a printed page in a book. Partly true, but not completely true! Read on.

Layout 102: A heartfelt plea to poets fond of fussy indents:

Please don’t.

Poems with indented lines don’t work well on the Internet; the longer the indent and the more fussy the spacing, the less likely it is to come out looking the way you want it to. For some reason, the people who invented HTML code and the browsers needed to read it designed it to collapse any amount of white space (that is, spacebar characters) into one single white space; so two, five, ten or fifty-seven spacebars will appear on the screen as one single spacebar character. There are ways to work around this problem, but these workarounds are tedious and time-consuming and they don’t work reliably on all browsers.

Worse, there are no tabs (pre-set tabulated spaces) and no automatic paragraph indents (you might find them in a word processor) in HTML. They just disappear when you convert the page to HTML.

Now, this might sound sad. But… I have heard poets read out aloud poems with fussy indents, and guess what? You can’t hear the indents at all. No extra pauses are given where the fussy indents appear; the poet reads the text out loud as though it had a normal left margin. So why not print it that way?

Please ask yourself honestly what these fussy indents are supposed to mean. What do they actually add to the poem? What is their rhythmic function? They certainly attract attention to the special ‘poetic’ nature of the text, to a slight extent, but do you need to do that? Shakespeare didn’t need them for his sonnets — do you?

But… (I hear you cry…)
Yes, Shakespeare (or Shakespeare’s printer) did use indents in his plays, and for a sensible reason. I call these ‘stepped indents’; they occur when a pentameter line is broken across two or more actors’ parts, and the stepped indent preserves the length and shape of the total rhythmical unit. Here’s an example, from Hamlet:

Francisco: Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.
Bernardo:  Long live the king!
Francisco:                                     Bernardo?
Bernardo:                                                        He.
Francisco: You come most carefully upon your hour.

Typographer Jan Tschichold (pron. chick-old)
Typographer Jan Tschichold (pron. chick-old)

A contrary thought or two on paragraph indentation (in print on paper) from the great designer Jan Tschichold (1901–1974):

Why the Beginnings of Paragraphs Must be Indented

WHEN WRITING down a sequence of thoughts, the author arranges them in the form of sentences which are grouped together. These groups of sentences are followed by a pause, a break. Today’s unattractive section symbol § is no more than a poor variant of the medieval symbol ¶ which originally could also appear in the middle of running lines and was colored. It signified the beginning of a new group of sentences. During the late Middle Ages such groups of sentences were introduced with a new line, but the habit remained of beginning the new group with the symbol for paragraph, usually written in red. Some of the early printers even cut it as a type sort and printed it in black. Previously, though, it was inserted by hand in red by the rubricator (whose job description stems from the color: rubrum – red). The space for the symbol had to be left blank by the typesetter. But rubrication often did not take place, and it was found that the em quad indention or indent, as we call this empty space today, was sufficient by itself to define a new group of sentences, even without the red symbol.
     This is still the case today. So far, no device more economical or even equally good has been found to designate a new group of sentences. There has been no shortage of attempts, though, to replace an old habit with a new one. But to destroy something old and replace it with something new, hoping that it will take hold, only makes sense if, first, there is a need to do this, and, second, the new device is better than the old one.[…]

From The Form of the Book — Essays on the morality of good design, ISBN 0-88179-116-4, Published by Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc., P.O. Box 147, Point Roberts, Washington 98281, USA / 3661 West Broadway Vancouver, B.C. v6R 2B8
     Originally published in German as Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie by Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, © 1975. Translation Copyright ©1991 by Hartley & Marks, Inc. If not available at your local bookstore, this book may be ordered directly from the publisher. Send the cover price plus one dollar fifty for shipping costs to the above address.

(‘Tschichold’ is pronounced ‘Chick-old’)

Late in his career he reflected on his experience and efforts at Penguin Books by saying, “I could be proud,” he wrote, “of the million Penguin books for whose typography I was responsible. Beside them, the two or three luxurious books I have designed are of no importance. We do not need pretentious books for the wealthy, we need more really well-made ordinary books.”

A digression… Chain Letters

Please don’t ever send chain letters to me, to JPR, nor to anyone, ever. Here’s why: All chain letters on the Internet are created with malicious intent. It’s not just that they’re fake, and that no money ever gets sent to the poor little girl with terminal cancer (to use a recent example). The real problem is that chain letters, by their very nature, choke the Internet to a halt.

Take a minute to think about just how much damage a chain letter will create in two weeks. Say the chain letter simply asks you to send a copy of the letter to five of your friends (who are asked to do the same, and so on). I received one in mid-1999, from a friend who had sent copies to twenty-two of her friends, so five copies is a reasonable minimum. Five copies of a nice letter, sent to a few friends… sounds harmless, right?

Wrong. Here’s why:

  1. On day one, you send five copies to five friends, that’s five copies;
  2. on day two, they each send five copies to their friends, that’s 25 copies;
  3. on day three the people who receive it each send five copies, that’s 125 copies;
  4. on day four, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 625 copies;
  5. on day five, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 3,125 copies,
  6. on day six, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 15,625 copies,
  7. on day seven, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 78,125 copies,
  8. on day eight, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 390,625 copies,
  9. on day nine, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s 1,953,125 copies, (let’s just make that two million and be done with the fractions)
  10. on day ten, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s ten million copies,
  11. on day eleven, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s fifty million copies,
  12. on day twelve, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s two hundred and fifty million copies,
  13. on day thirteen, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s one and a quarter BILLION copies,
  14. on day fourteen, the people who receive those copies each send five copies, that’s over SIX BILLION copies.

So, in just two weeks, over six billion copies of a chain letter have choked the Internet to a halt, not to mention the mailboxes of every corporation, university and public service organisation in the English-speaking world.

If you do receive a chain letter and you wish to check it out, a good source of up-to-date information is the Computer Virus Myths page by Rob Rosenberger

Another useful site: the HoaxKill website at will backtrack for you up the chain of letters you’ve received and tell all the people who sent you the message that they’ve been party to a malicious hoax.

Here are two other spam fighting sites: and


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