If you're new to a project but really want to jump in and contribute, I'd recommend talking with those already working on the project first. Get to know them a little. Maybe ask what "busy work" is around that nobody has gotten to yet where you might get your feet wet.
If your first introduction to the existing people on a project is a bunch of code submissions with simple formatting changes or spelling and grammar fixes, you're not going to make a good first impression. Even worse is if your first introduction is something like switching the order of parameters on an equals comparison or some other such nonsense.
On the other end of the spectrum, if your first introduction is a code submission refactoring a huge part of the core of the project, again, you're not going to make a good first impression.
Working on an open source project is as much about the people involved as it is about the code and what you (or I) think is perfect. Sure, arguments are going to occur, and often over trivial things. But at least get to know the folks before you poke at them.