Contributors’ Guide

Thank you for your interest in submitting to AUJ. We publish triannually on a predetermined theme for each issue. The topic itself is usually somewhat broad, but the key criteria for each piece is that it is written from a Christian perspective. Our primary question for acceptance is, “Does this piece in some way help reveal or illuminate a small part of God’s beauty, goodness, and truth?”

A. Submitting to An Unexpected Journal

1. Where We Publish

The Journal is published on AUJ’s website, as well as in digital and print editions through various online marketplaces and distributors. Print and digital editions are generally available worldwide.

2. Readership & Style

We are a “pop academic” journal, meaning that we are read by people who want to think deeply about culture (including so-called “high” culture and “low” culture). Our readers come from every strata of formal education, ranging from seminary students and clergy, to university professors and grade school teachers, to popular-level readers of all professions and backgrounds who are interested in expanding their understanding of the Christian worldview. 

Please do not assume readers have specialized knowledge on your topic; instead, explain the key concept(s). If you have been following AUJ, you may notice that certain themes recur in essays. You may think that because someone has explained it before that it isn’t necessary to explain it in your essay. Go ahead and explain it again. While we have a core following, many of our online readers are people coming across the site and reading a handful of essays based on their interest in particular subjects. Your piece may be the first or only essay read by someone who is new to the topic, so make sure that you explain the concepts well enough that they understand it.

Also, considering our varied readership, if your goal is to give David Bentley Hart a run for his money as the writer who uses the most obscure words in a single essay… AUJ is not the best publication in which to achieve that goal. Transpositions might be a better fit.

A good rule of thumb is the more difficult the concept is you are tackling, the simpler the words should be used in order to explain it. If there is a word that only a linguist would know that you simply must use, go ahead… but keep the rest of the language accessible.

You may also put such definitions or explanations in a simple footnote, where appropriate. 

3. Works Accepted

An Unexpected Journal publishes original content only; except in very rare cases, we are unable to republish previously published work.

We publish the following types of original content:

  • Longform Essays – 3,000-5,000 words
  • Shortform Essays – 1,000-2,500 words
  • Short Stories – 1,000-2,500 words
  • Poetry – up to 500 words
  • Devotional Reflections – 800-1,200 words
  • Book, Film, Art, Performing Arts, or Other Reviews – 800-1,500 words
  • Art or Photography – 300 pixels per inch, minimum

4. Formatting Tips

AUJ follows the Turabian format. The Manual for Writers is a handy resource for writers to have on hand. If you have a question about citation format, please refer to the manual over an article online. Some online citation guides we have found are not correct.

Things to watch for:

  • American NOT British Spelling
  • C.S. Lewis NOT C. S. Lewis
  • Lewis’s NOT Lewis’
  • Dashes like — this NOT like—this
  • Ellipses like . . . This NOT like … this (Turabian, not AP style)
  • For a word set off in single quotes such as a ‘defined concept’, punctuation is outside of the single quote.
  • For a “quotation,” punctuation is inside the double quotes. (Other than a quote inside a quote, you should almost always use double quotes).
  • Multiple citations within a single sentence should all be at the end of the sentence.
  • Please use the phrase “digital edition” rather than “Kindle” or “Nook” in your citations. Many online marketplaces, such as Apple, will reject digital editions that include brand names of competitors.
  • Please do not reference book marketplaces at all in either your essay, footnotes, or bio (ex. Amazon, Wipf & Stock, etc). This will also cause the book to be rejected from some distributors.

 Examples of Footnotes

Quoting a book:

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, (1945; repr., New York: Scribner, 2003), 119.

 Quoting an online article:

Richard Brody, “Review: The Authoritarian Populism of ‘Incredibles 2,’” The New Yorker, last modified June 19, 2018, accessed August 30, 2018,

 Quoting a section of a book:

C.S. Lewis, “Ajax and Others: John Jones, On Aristotle and Other Greek Tragedy,” in Image and Imagination (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 191.

    5. Pre-Submission Checklist

    • Run spell-check.
    • Check the essay with Grammarly. (Grammarly suggestions aren’t always good, but it can highlight problem areas).
    • Read through your piece out loud. Check for awkward phrasing and homonyms.
    • Check for unclear antecedents. In our writers’ submissions, we frequently encounter instances of “this” and “that” with unclear antecedents – where the object of “this, that, it” etc. is vague and undefined. Before submission, search your document for these words and double-check that their antecedents are crystal clear.
      English professor, writer, & apologist Holly Ordway explains this concept well:

      Unclear antecendents are a major problem when they are used in a catchall way to refer to earlier parts of an argument, or used in topic sentences or conclusions (“This shows that…” etc.) They are extremely common, especially in drafts, because they allow hand-waving over the ideas, such that the writer doesn’t have to work out the precise chain of argument or point out the exact evidence: “This” just covers it all. It’s perfectly fine in drafts as a space-holder, like the parenthetical [add quote here] or [explain more] notes that I find helpful to keep going when I’m rough-drafting, but it’s essential to go back and consider each “this” or “that” carefully to ensure that it’s clear. For that reason, I have a keen eye for spotting and squashing unclear antecedents. Free-floating This and That need to be specified: “What, exactly, do you mean by ‘this’?” is the question. It can be hard work for the writer to do, but it improves the quality of one’s thinking tremendously – not just their writing, but one’s thinking, since unclear antecedents are almost always problems of unclear thought, not of style.

    • Check your citations. The first reference to a source should be the full name (C.S. Lewis). Writers frequently miss this, so double-check. Following references should be the last name only (Lewis). The same is true for abbreviating a phrase or title. The first reference should be spelled out (That Hideous Strength). All future references should be the abbreviation only (THS).
    • Check your footnotes. Is all the information included?  Are they formatted correctly? Incorrectly formatted and incomplete footnotes are the most time-consuming issues that we run into when preparing a final proof for publishing.

      – The first citation of a source should be the full citation: J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” in Tree and Leaf (1964; repr., London: HarperCollins, 2001), 23.

      – When quoting the exact same source as the citation immediately preceding: Ibid.

      – Quoting the same source as the preceding citation but with a different page number: Ibid., 83.

      – Referencing a previously cited source with other citations in between: Lewis, THS, 119.

    • Turn off content control in Word. Content control on a Word document causes formatting problems when importing the essays into and exporting from Google Docs for editing. Select all, right click, then select “Remove content control.”

    6. How to Submit

    Please include the following elements in your submission:Put your name and email on the top of the first page or cover page of your submission.

    • Include the name of the issue you are submitting it to (for example, “Issue: Leisure”)
    • Be sure your abstract includes a brief explanation for why you believe your piece fits the theme of issue you’re submitting to.
    • Double-check that all your citations are formatted (footnotes, in Turabian/Chicago style).
    • Include a headshot and a brief bio of 40 to 50 words that specifies relevant details, such as your vocation or occupation, examples of significant work, your latest book or other identifying mark (office in a national organization, for example), your personal life (if desired), and your church affiliation (if desired). See the Journal for examples.
    • Include a bibliography at the end of your essay.

    All submissions must be made through this Google form. You will be able to attach your article and sign our writer agreement (required for publication) directly in the form. Your information will remain private. Your contact information will only be used for the purposes of An Unexpected Journal and will not be made available for any other purpose or to any other party.

    7. Writers’ Agreement

    When you submit, you affirm that you are the author of the work and hold the copyright to the piece, and that it has not been previously published. You grant AUJ exclusive worldwide publication rights, in all formats, for 90 days after the issue’s publication date, and nonexclusive rights after that.

    To put it simply, you agree not to publish the submitted piece elsewhere for 90 days. After that, you may publish your piece wherever you like. When publishing in other locations, you must mention that the piece first appeared in AUJ and include a link to the piece on the site. For your convenience, we include a citation reference for each published piece at the bottom of each article page on AUJ’s website.

    Please note that we must have a completed contributor agreement on file in order to publish your work.

    8. Compensation

    We are currently unable to provide any financial compensation for contributions to An Unexpected Journal. Please know that your contribution is nevertheless highly valuable and serves to stimulate discussion of literary and imaginative apologetics.

    9. Accompanying Images

    Images to accompany each article on our website and social media will be chosen by our team. If you would like us to use an image of your choice, you must obtain and provide permission from the image creator, assert in writing that you are the image creator, or justify the fair use of the image. Fair use of an image can be justified if, for example, the image is in the public domain, is commented upon directly (such as a book cover or a movie poster), or if the image is licensed under Creative Commons. If the image is merely illustrative for your post, this is not sufficient to justify “fair use” of the image. It is your responsibility to accurately attribute all copyrighted material to its author or source.

    B. Acceptance and Revisions

    Every acceptance issued by AUJ is a conditional acceptance, contingent upon the author’s participation in the editing process. Although we do ultimately publish the vast majority of work we accept, all pieces first undergo revision – sometimes significant revision. Acceptance does not guarantee publication.

    1. Content Editing

    After the Issue Editor(s) review the submissions for their Issue, they will select submissions to Accept into the development editing process. Authors are expected to work with a team of editors to polish and prepare their submissions for publication. This may involve multiple rounds of content editing, which focuses on the substance and style of the piece, as well as copyediting, which focuses on proper formatting (especially of citations), grammar, and punctuation.

    Generally, two Content Editors will be assigned to work with you on your piece. After the piece passes through content editing, a Copyeditor will be assigned to go through a final review.

    If something comes up and you cannot respond to the editors’ suggestions and comments promptly, please let the Issue Editors know. Everyone working on the Journal is a volunteer and we try to move through the editing and production process as efficiently as possible.

    2. Working between Word and Google Docs

    Comments and editing are done in Google Docs. At times, people have found it more convenient to move their essay off of Google Docs to revise after the editors’ comments. If you decide to revise in Word or another program, do not copy and paste from Docs into Word. This will break the connection between the in-text citations and your footnotes.

     Instead, with the Google Doc of your essay open, go to File -> Download As -> and select .docx as the file type. This will give you a Word document with your footnotes and citations still intact. Your revised file can then be uploaded to the editing folder when your revisions are complete.

      3. After You Revise

      Once you have finished your revisions, run through the pre-submission checklist again.

       In particular, make sure your first references are all still in the correct places. Are the full footnotes for your first citations still in the right spot? It is very common for the order of the citations to be changed during revisions.

      Helpful Tip: Use your bibliography as a checklist to confirm that your final edited article still includes the full footnote at first reference of each source.

      We’ve been using reason and imagination to advance and defend the Christian worldview since 2018.

      And you can help us spread that message.