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Started as a writer now I’m here

Some FAQs with your Editor-in-Chief


Hello Osgoode!  My name is Erin and it is my honour to introduce myself as the Obiter Dicta’s Editor-in-Chief for the 2016-2017 year. From my humble beginnings as a Staff Writer in 1L to running the editing cycle as the Managing Editor last year, I have come to love the Obiter and I am so excited to now be at the helm.


I’d like to take this opportunity in the first issue to answer some common questions we receive about writing for the Obiter Dicta, so let’s get going!


Who can write for the Obiter Dicta?


Just about anyone who is currently or used to be a part of Osgoode Hall.  Professors, students, staff and alumni are all welcome to make submissions. Just check your inbox for notifications of upcoming submission deadlines and requirements.


What kind of content does the Obiter Dicta publish?


Just about anything!  In addition to articles, we publish movie/album/concert/restaurant reviews, cartoons, stories, poetry, recipes, you name it!  As long as what you’ve submitted isn’t offensive or otherwise inappropriate, we essentially publish everything we receive.


The only other exception relates to space considerations. Because we have a rather strict issue size, it is possible that we may not be able to publish everything we receive. If a situation arises where we have too many pieces for one issue, we will contact the excluded piece’s author to explain the situation and ensure that the piece is published in the following issue. This has yet to be a problem but it unfortunately remains a possibility.


What happens to my piece after it is submitted?


This is the part of the FAQs I was most excited about writing.  Since I started my time at the Obiter, we’ve never taken the opportunity to give everyone the low-down on how articles are processed once they are received. We haven’t been very open about the editing process, and it’s come to my attention that that needs to change. So here we go! Go go gadget transparency!


Once an article is received, it is first sent to one of our four fantastic Section Editors depending on what section is the best fit (Arts & Culture, News, Opinion or Sports & Entertainment). Section Editors are our first line of defense; they look for style errors (how many spaces after a period, dash length and placement, all the really thrilling stuff), spelling mistakes and simple grammar mistakes. At this stage, only light edits are done; the article looks essentially the same    Next the article moves to one of our two Copy Editors. Their main function is to catch anything the Section Editors missed.


The Obiter’s Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and Creative Director complete the final round of edits. In the final round more substantial edits may be done to fix things such as awkward phrasing, run-on sentences and passive voice. It is NEVER our intention to change your piece into something you don’t like or don’t approve of. If you have any concerns with how your piece was edited, please let us know and we will be happy to discuss republishing your piece. While the Obiter Board has final say on how a piece is edited, at the end of the day we rely on writers to fill our pages and we want to keep you as happy and eager to continue writing for the Obiter as possible!


Throughout the editing process, our current Managing Editor (the fantastic Ian Mason) is behind the scenes, coordinating everything. Did the author forget to include the picture’s source?  Ian’s on it. An editor’s running late?  Ian’s figuring out how to make it work.


Once all the pieces are edited, they are sent to our layout designer. After the draft layout is done, the Board reviews the draft to look for any errors or other changes that need to be made. Our Creative Director (the phenomenal Kay Wang) coordinates with the layout designer to make sure things run as smoothly as possible. Kay may also do some work on the layout design itself.


Does the Obiter publish anonymous pieces?


Generally, no we do not publish anonymous pieces. At this time, the Obiter has a very small exception carved out for articles that discuss mental health issues as they relate to law school and the legal profession. We made the decision as a Board last year to because we felt it was important to respect that there is still an existing stigma around mental health. By making that narrow carve out, we hope to encourage and protect writers who are willing to frankly and honestly discuss their struggles with mental health. So far the decision has been a great one. We published an excellent piece that received some of the year’s best feedback.


While the possibility exists for additional carve outs, we at the Obiter believe that generally requiring authors to identify themselves forces them to self-monitor and really think about what they are submitting. If you don’t want your name attached to something, should you really send it out into the world?  While this many not always work—I have my regrets about publishing an article with both “butt sex” and “vulvas” in the title—it is largely successful and we’re sticking with it for now.


If you are interested in publishing something anonymously that doesn’t fall into the mental health carve out, please email us. We can’t promise we’ll publish your piece anonymously, but we definitely want to chat about it before we make that decision.


That’s it for now folks!  Check your inbox for upcoming submission deadlines and meeting times. Please let us know if you have any questions about the Obiter at obiterdicta@osgoode.yorku.ca.


Stay classy Osgoode,


Erin Garbett