The editorial perspective 

For any journal article you write, your first readers will be the journal’s editorial staff and peer reviewers, aside from any colleagues who see your work while you are still working on it. Just like your readers, editors and reviewers will appreciate accuracy, brevity and clarity in the way you write – but there are a few more things you can do to make reading your manuscript easier for them – and increase your chances of acceptance.

1) Choose your journal carefully. 

The journal’s editorial office is the first port of call for your article. The best way to make this first reading a good one is to do your research before submission and make a reasoned choice about where to submit. The most common reason that an article is rejected outright by the editorial office – also called a ‘desk rejection’ – is that it doesn’t fit the journal’s scope. However much the editorial office rates your article and the research within it, the editors will not be able to move forward with an article that is unsuitable for the journal – whether in topic, approach or level of significance. Before you submit your manuscript, make sure you have read the information on the journal’s homepage and are familiar with the other articles it publishes. Be honest with yourself and perhaps ask experienced co-workers for their view too – is your paper a good fit for this particular journal? If not, save your own time and that of the editorial office by finding a journal that best suits your work. If it is a good fit, move forward with your submission.

2) Use your cover letter to explain why your article is a good fit for the journal; be specific. 

If you’ve put in the time to choose a journal wisely, it will make life much easier for the editorial office if you explain this upfront in your cover letter for the submission. Your abstract will summarise the contents of your article, so you don’t need to do this in the cover letter – just focus on the significance of your findings and the manuscript’s fit for the journal – these are the key pieces of information that the editor will be looking for. Presenting them upfront in the cover letter is a great way to save the editor’s time and effort when reading your article for the first time. Refer to the journal’s scope and how your article matches it, and refer to recent publications in the journal, explaining how your work builds on these.

3) Make the central issues and ‘story’ of your article clear and easy to find. 

The first time an editor or peer reviewer reads your manuscript, they will be looking to assess fairly quickly:

  • Whether your article fits the scope of the journal, in terms of topic, coverage and significance
  • What your central argument and conclusions are
  • What methodology or evidence you’re using to reach your conclusions
  • How rigorous you’ve been in completing your research, and whether your methodology was appropriate to your aims
  • How significant your findings are in the context of the discipline

Bear these aims in mind when writing. Your article should tell a story that hits these key milestones, and it should be organised so that they are clearly signposted using headings, sections and clarity of messaging.

The best way to do this, in many cases, is to adhere to the stylistic and structural conventions of other papers in your discipline – this means that you are writing using a context and framework that your editor and reviewers will already understand, allowing them to grasp the key parts of your article more quickly. This is especially important in scientific disciplines. On the same note, if the individual journal specifies a certain structural set-up, adhering to this will make the process of reading and reviewing much smoother.

 
If you’re looking for support services to help you with manuscript preparation, you can find our range of author services, offered in partnership with AJE, at http://www.cambridge.org/academic/author-services.  

 Read our top tips on getting your paper read in the blog post ‘Making life easier for your readers‘ 

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