Journal of Financial Economics
Instructions for Tables and Figures

I have noticed a pattern in many figures submitted to the JFE, so I want to highlight the following instructions that are often applicable (in addition to the general instructions outlined below):

  1. Elsevier charges a substantial fee (see the JFE web page for more details) to print figures in color. There is no charge for color in the online PDF version of the paper. Therefore, unless you plan to pay the incremental charge for having your figures printed in color, YOU SHOULD MAKE SURE THAT ALL FIGURES ARE LEGIBLE AND LOOK GOOD WHEN PRINTED IN BLACK & WHITE.
  2. In all figures, REMOVE ALL UNNECSSARY BOXES, LINES, MARKS, ETC. (there is a wonderful book by Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information , that contains a fountain of valuable advice on how to construct effective figures).
  3. All figures must be LEGIBLE, SELF-CONTAINED AND LOOK GOOD when photographed and reproduced to fit on a JFE page.

The legends, axis labels, column and row labels and footnotes for all figures and tables should be clear enough so they are self-contained; that is, the content of the table or the figure must be understandable without reading the text of the article.

In particular, the TITLE AND LEGEND of the table or figure must describe the content of the numbers or symbols in the body of the table or the content of the figure. For example, a table legend that says "Descriptive Statistics" is unsatisfactory. The overall legend should describe the statistics, the sample, and the sample period at a minimum.

In addition the following items must always appear somewhere in the legend, column labels, row labels, or axis labels:

  1. The DIMENSION of all numbers must be CLEARLY DEFINED
    • for example, daily, monthly, or annual returns or percentage returns
  2. SAMPLE DESCRIPTION including:
    • sample SIZE
    • sample PERIOD
  3. All SYMBOLS, EQUATIONS, CONCEPTS and TERMINOLOGY MUST BE DEFINED in English in the table or figure (in footnotes if nowhere else).

Figures must be professionally drawn in black ink on white paper or produced to equivalent standards on a high quality laser printer. The figure axes (labeled in English), and any symbols or notations that are part of the figure must also be labeled by the artist. This does not include the figure legend that will be typeset by the printer. All figures must be sufficiently high quality to be photographed by the printer.

It often seems to authors (who, by definition, are intimately familiar with the content and notation of their paper) that these procedures are repetitive, obvious and unnecessary. However, the vast majority of readers do not read an article in great detail the first time; they usually skim the abstract, and some parts of the introduction, tables, charts and conclusions. Such readers become careful and serious consumers of an article when something catches their interest. Tables or figures that require incomplete reading of the text to understand do not communicate much to the skimming reader. It is a mistake to write only for the top dozen or so people in a field. If the article is written so that others can easily access the material, the top people also will find it easier to digest. Therefore, the readership and impact of the article will increase.

Some Examples:

  • Wayne H. Mikkelson. "Convertible Calls and Security Returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 9. No. 3 (September 1981), p. 240.

  • Michael R. Gibbons. "Multivariate Tests of Financial Models: A New Approach," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 10, No. 1 (March 1982), p. 13.

  • Shmuel Kandel. "The Likelihood Ratio Test Statistic of Mean-Variance Efficiency Without a Riskless Asset ," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 13, No. 4 (December 1984), p. 586.

  • Michael R. Gibbons. "Multivariate Tests of Financial Models: A New Approach," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 10, No. 1 (March 1982), p. 14.

    Editors' Note:

    In general axis labels such as those in these figures should contain English label as well as the mathematical notation. They are omitted in this figure and placed in the legend because of the tight space constraints.

  • Kenneth R. French. "Stock Returns and the Weekend Effect," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 1980), p. 65.

  • Thomas Ho and Hans R. Stoll. "Optimal Dealer Pricing Under Transactions and Return Uncertainty," Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 9, No. 1 (March 1981), p. 57.

Download the full text of the instructions. here


Journal of Financial Economics

Simon Business School
University of Rochester
Rochester, New York 14627
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