Council of Editors of Learned Journals


The award deadline is September 1, 2020

The Council of Editors of Learned Journals is pleased to invite the participation of CELJ members (whether new or longstanding) in our Awards Competition. Below you will find details about the contest, including advice on eligibility, descriptions of individual categories, guidelines for preparing your entry, and information about the awards ceremony.


The journals receiving awards in past years attest to the range and diversity of our membership. There is no typical winner, as is clear from our past awards.

  • Only current members of CELJ may enter the competition. (To check on your membership status, login to this website and your status will be immediately displayed as current or past due. To become current, renew through your Profile or create a new member profile from the navigation bar at the top of every screen.)
  • No journal can compete in more than one category annually.
  • Journals are only eligible to win once every three years (e.g., if Journal X wins Best Special Issue in 2017, it is not eligible for another award, in any category, until 2020). The Distinguished Editor Award, in both the literary and the scholarly division, is exempt from this rotational requirement.
  • Trade/technical journals that work primarily in areas of discourse other than the scholarly or the creative arts are not eligible.
  • Journals must be published in English.
  • Submissions must be of current issues published since September 1 of the previous year. Eligible issues are determined by the printed issue date, not by the stated date of publication. Late issues may not qualify.
  • Electronic journals must display publication dates and be easily accessible through directions provided to the website. If an electronic journal cannot be accessed on the Web without a subscription, access must be provided to the judges and CELJ Vice President for the duration of the contest and in such a way as not to compromise the judges' anonymity. The same guidelines apply to hybrid journals.

Awards will be presented publicly at a CELJ session during each year's Modern Language Association Convention. We will notify winners and runners-up in advance of MLA so they can make plans to attend the ceremony. If you enter the competition, you are expected to be present or to appoint someone to be present to receive the award should you be selected. Results will be posted on the CELJ website after the convention; we regret that the volume of submissions makes it impossible for us to send individual notifications of receipt or to non-winners. 

Award Categories

Journals may compete in six different categories, all offered annually: Best New Journal, Best Special Issue, Best Public Intellectual Special Issue, the Phoenix Award, Distinguished Editor, and Best Digital Feature.

Best New Journal

New journals with three years or fewer of publication history are eligible. Applicants must supply four copies of two different issues, one of which must be the most current issue (with electronic-only journals supplying URLs or other means of anonymously accessing the materials). Submissions may include four copies of a letter from the editor, no longer than one page, introducing the new journal.

Best Special Issue

A special issue from the previous Fall/Winter or current year may be submitted. Also, the journal editor must include a paragraph in the cover letter explaining why the submitted special issue is exceptional. Submissions without the editor’s endorsement will not be considered. Send four copies of the special issue or specify an electronic issue. No additional supporting documentation may be included. A journal may submit only one special issue for this award.

Best Public Intellectual Special Issue

Contestants must reach out beyond academe and connect with a popular audience in terms of accessible language and attractive presentation. Send four copies of the special issue, or specify an electronic issue, that seeks to achieve the democratic mission of higher education. Also, the journal editor must include a paragraph in the cover letter explaining why the submitted special issue is exceptional. Submissions without the editor’s endorsement will not be considered. No additional supporting documentation may be included. A journal may submit only one special issue for this award.

Best Digital Feature

This award recognizes excellence and/or innovation that draws on the particular affordances of the digital. Journals may submit for consideration a single article, a recurrent feature, or a particular innovation of design from the award period; material may be drawn from all-digital journals, digital arms of hybrid journals, or supplementary digital features of print journals. Any material behind a subscription paywall must be made fully available to the judging panel.

Phoenix Award for Significant Editorial or Design Achievement

Journals that have launched an effort to revitalize or transform within the previous three years may submit. This award goes to the most improved journal, regardless of its state at the time the renovations began. A weak journal that has become excellent is eligible, but so too is an admired journal that manages to become dramatically better. Submissions must feature significant editorial and/or design change. Print journals, send four copies of each of the following: the last issue before the launch of the revitalization or transformation and two different sample issues of the revitalized or transformed journal. Electronic journals should provide access to the previous issues and current issues in an email via URL or by a mailed flash drive. Hybrid journals must advise and substantiate what components belong to which stage of the journal's development. Submissions may include four copies of a letter from the editor, no longer than one page, introducing the journal's changes.

Distinguished Editor

Any editor is eligible. The editor must be nominated by the new editor or by a member of the current or past editorial board. Supporting documentation may include any of the following: other letters of nomination by colleagues familiar with the editor's work; a brief CV in narrative format highlighting aspects of the editorship; selected sample issues of the journal illustrating key qualities of the editor's work; any other materials that can demonstrate the editor's influence on the journal's field of scholarship.

Submission Guidelines

Each category will be judged by a panel of up to three editors who independently evaluate the submissions, consulting with the Vice President, who makes final decisions based on the judges' recommendations. When appropriate, the judges may also recommend a runner-up.

If your membership is not current, please join or renew. Submitters are responsible for checking whether their CELJ membership is up to date. Submissions made for journals with lapsed membership cannot be considered.

This year, because of constraints deriving from COVID, we are mandating that all submissions be electronic. We understand that this is not ideal, but given the reduced office presence at many institutions, it is necessary. Many journals within our membership are tied aesthetically and philosophically to print formats, and pdf versions of articles do not add up to the full design of a journal issue; we therefore urge you to submit in as full an electronic rendering as possible.

Your submission should be emailed to Debra Rae Cohen <>, with the following recommendations to follow:

  • We would prefer you to submit a link to your submission—to a website or to an online storage location that contains a single or multiple PDF files of each issue. If that is not possible, please contact us to ask about alternate delivery options. 
  • Submitters to the special issue categories should include their letters of nomination as attachments or links, not in the body of the emails.
  • Please make sure that we have the means of accessing anything paywalled or passworded. (We need four access IDs, if required, to accommodate access for our internal processes and judges.)
  • Please make sure all files use your journal name as part of the file name. 
  • Please use the subject line: “CELJ Awards: Award Name” in any email correspondence.
Please direct all inquiries about the 2020 competition to Debra Rae Cohen, Vice President of CELJ.  Contest materials must be received by end-of-business on September 1, 2020.

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